Sunday, December 6, 2009

It's All In A Name

Okay, so I’ve had several people ask me how Josh and I came up with the name Addilyn Grace Kelly for our sweet little girl.  So, for all those who have asked…here’s the story:

When Josh and I were dating we had discussed potential baby names for our children.  This was not the best thing to do to guard your heart before marriage, but that’s a story for another day. Regardless, he and I had decided upon Abigail Grace Kelly and Ethan Brian Kelly.  For years we loved these names, but as we began trying to get pregnant we realized how common these names had become.  We both still liked Abigail and Ethan, but we began considering other possibilities. 

Looking at the meanings of boy names we decided on Josiah.  In Hebrew, Josiah means “the Lord saves” and in Aramaic it means, “the Lord cures.”  This was really symbolic to us because of all we had been through and all that God had done for us.  In addition, Josiah was a great king of Judah who found the book of the Law and removed the false idols from the temple during his reign. In the Kelly family, the eldest son of each generation has been given the name Brian.  So therefore, we had a little boy’s name:  Josiah Brian Kelly.

When we started fertility treatments we knew the possibility of having multiples was higher so we began thinking about names that would sound good together.  I liked Abby and Addi but for the longest time we could not decide on what Addi would be short for.  This past summer, Josh was working at a camp at his school and one week he had a little girl in his group called Adeline (ad-eh-line).  Right away we both liked it.  However, the more we considered it, we decided that we liked the softer sound of Addilyn (ad-eh-len).  This name means “noble or kind.”  We also decided to keep Grace because of the amount of grace that the Lord has shown us through our salvation and the entire process of trying to conceive.  Many have asked, but no, we did not choose Grace because of the actress Grace Kelly.  Although she was classy, beautiful, and married a prince; this was not our reason for giving our daughter the middle name Grace.

So, there you have it:  Our little Addilyn Grace, and maybe one day (Lord-willing) a little Josiah Brian.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Anticipation

One thing I have always struggled with is wishing away time.  I have always seemed to be excited about something in the future to the point where I do not fully enjoy the present. With that said, I want to make it known that I have absolutely LOVED being pregnant. Despite how much I have grown in my anxious demeanor, I still fight little battles each day.  Recently, I just couldn’t wait until we knew the sex of the baby.  Then I just couldn’t wait to feel movement in my tummy.  Now, I just can’t wait until Josh can feel Addilyn kick.  And most of all, I just can’t wait to hold her in my arms!  Although these desires are not sinful in and of themselves, I am realizing that these desires can easily become idols in my heart.

So the question is, “What do I anticipate most?” Am I focused on loving the employees of a department store more than getting registered for baby supplies? Do I spend more time thinking about the gospel or how to be a mom?  Do I talk more about Jesus or my pregnancy?  Do I long for the return of Christ more than I long to hold my little girl?  Do I have an eternal or worldly perspective?  Galatians 5:5 encourages us to eagerly wait for the Lord. As we do this we can certainly delight in blessings from the Lord.  However, we should never place more importance on the blessings than we do on the one who is pouring out the blessing.

 

Philippians 3:12-20

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 15 All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained. 17 Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Teachability, Patience, and Humility

As an opinionated and vocal woman, why does it surprise me that everyone has their own opinion to share, especially when you’re pregnant?  Over the past few weeks I’ve realized that everyone knows exactly what pregnant women should or shouldn’t eat, how they should exercise, what techniques will be best for labor, how to nurse, and even what toys we should or shouldn’t allow our baby to play with.  Funny enough, few people have the same opinion and everyone seems to contradict one another.  Whether the advice comes from a doctor, a friend without children, a friend with 5 children, a popular book, or another pregnant woman, I am still thankful for the variety of advice I am getting.  I appreciate that my family, friends, and doctors care enough about me to share what has worked for them and others they know.

So now, after expressing my gratitude, I also ask for your prayers.   As Josh and I prepare for our little one, we will be making many decisions that will affect our family in a variety of ways.  Pray that we will continue to be teachable and listen to the advice and wisdom that so many want to share with us.  Josh and I have been praying that the Lord will give us discernment. Everyone’s circumstances are different, but the Lord knows our every need so we pray that He will help us to make decisions that are best for our family.  Secondly, I ask that you pray for us to have patience.  With so many people asking us to consider a way that worked for them, it can be difficult to respectfully disagree with someone or explain that we would prefer not to take that specific route.  I hope the Lord will continue to allow Josh and I to express our thankfulness in how an individual is demonstrating their love for us.  Finally, please pray for us to have humility.  It is difficult to not become prideful or defensive about things we have already made decisions about when others clearly disagree.  Since I was a young girl I have always helped care for infants, toddlers, and young children. The majority of my friends already have children so I think it is safe to say that I am not naive about babies and children; however, pray that I will continue to realize I always have more to learn.

Proverbs 11:2  When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

Colossians 3:12  Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mercy at 12 Weeks

This week I have seen abundant mercy and grace poured out on me from the Lord.  Monday morning I started bleeding very heavily, which is not a good sign for a woman who is 12 weeks pregnant.  Thankfully, Josh happened to have the day off of work and so we immediately went to the doctor.  I wasn't having any cramping and I wasn't nauseated so I was somewhat optimistic.  As we sat in silence during the 35-minute drive to the doctor, the Lord brought many of his promises to my mind.  I was so blessed by these reminders of the Truth that I believe in.  Some scriptures included:

James 1:2-3  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.

Colossians 3:15-17  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.   Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly

Romans 8:28  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him

2 Corinthians 12:9  But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me

Psalm 121:1-2  I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from?  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Deut 31:8  The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."

When we arrived at the doctor, they preformed an ultrasound...Praise the Lord, the baby looked good.  He/She was kicking like crazy and the heartbeat was really strong.  The doctors were concerned however because they were not able to identify the cause of the bleeding. In addition, they were concerned with the fact that I have a negative blood type (or no Rh Factor) and Josh has a positive blood type (presence of a Rh factor).  From what they told me, this can be very dangerous for a pregnant woman.  This combination (me being negative and Josh being positive) most likely results in a child who is Rh positive. Although the baby’s blood system and mine are separate, there are times when the blood from the baby can enter into my system or vice versa. This can cause my body to create antibodies against the Rh factor, thus treating an Rh positive baby like an intruder.   Long story short, my body’s immune system would attack the baby as if it were an infection causing my body to break down the red blood cells of the baby.  Results from this include anemia, other illnesses, brain damage, and possibly even death.

Basically what the doctors ended up doing was giving me an injection of RhIg (also known as Rhogam). This will help me by suppressing my ability to react to the Rh positive red cells. This means that my body will not be able to fight off any infections for awhile, but it will protect the baby a little better.  I will need to get this shot every 10 weeks and again immediately after the delivery of the baby.  

I can see so much grace in this, and I am so thankful both the baby and I are fine.  I think it’s amazing that the Lord has given doctors wisdom to know these types of things.  Please continue praying for mercy in this area. Pray that the Lord will protect the baby and me from getting sick since my body will not be able to fight off any infections. Most importantly, pray that I remember that it is the Lord who gives and takes away (Job 1:21) and that I will continue to glorify Him no matter what His will for my life is.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Seven Weeks

No bigger than a blueberry, our baby has a brain, spinal cord, and heart that is beating 158 times a minute.  It already has arms and legs and will soon begin developing fingers and toes.  It absoluetly amazes me that anyone who has ever experienced this can not be absolutely positive there is a God.  He is so amazing.  How incredible is it that He is not only sustaining the life within me but His hand is knitting every aspect of this child together.  We went in for an ultrasound two Thursdays ago and we got to see the heartbeat.  We went back last Thursday and within a week baby had grown three times the size it was from the week before!  I was astonished!  Here is a small (not very clear) clip of the ultrasound.  It's so much better in person! The doctors say that on the day of the most recent ultrasound baby is 7 weeks and 3 days old.
video

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sesame Seed sized lessons from God

So, Josh and I are finally starting to realize that we’re not dreaming. We really are going to having a baby!  We are just beside ourselves with excitement and can’t seem to stop smiling.  I am so thankful that the Lord is working this great miracle in me right now!  If we had not found out when we did, it would not have taken long…  Lately, I have been exhausted to the point of embarrassment.  So far, I have fallen asleep on the hardwood floor at a friend’s house amidst a group playing Rock Band, on the church floor as our band practiced for the upcoming weeks, and other random places that one would normally find quite uncomfortable.  I am so thankful the Lord has blessed me with a flexible schedule so I can take naps on lunch breaks and rest in the evenings. It absolutely amazes me that something the size of a sesame seed can drain your energy so much.  I was reading in a book that when a pregnant woman (in her first trimester) is sleeping her body is working harder than a non-pregnant woman is while mountain climbing.  Amazing!  On another note, last Friday Josh and I went out on a date night and it was the first time food was not my friend.  Since then, I have had to avoid several smells (including the broccoli salad at our churches membership meeting).  All of these things would normally not bring joy to someone, but I just can’t help to get excited, because I know the Lord preparing a little one in my womb.

Psalm 139:13-14  -  For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I Stand Amazed

Before reading this post, please know that it is one of many in a series that demonstrates how wonderful and amazing our God is.  If you haven’t had a chance to read any previous posts start with “Oh Baby” and this one will make so much more sense.  I also am aware this is a really long post, but I promise it’s worth reading!

So this past Sunday Josh and I were suppose to go into the doctor to find out if we were pregnant, but last Tuesday I started my cycle.  We were both really sad, but the Lord had given us peace like he had in the past and I tried not to think about it too much.  Anyone who knows me understands how much I love my job and most of my closest family and friends know that the month of August is an extremely crazy time for me every year.  It usually consists of 70-hour workweeks, no days off on the weekends, and lots of prayer for strength to get me through.  This year was no exception.  Needless to say, in the past three weeks I had not been caring for my body like I should.  I did not get the sleep I needed, I did not exercise, and I had been substituting water for excessive amounts of sweet tea.  In addition when I started my cycle, I stopped taking the prenatal vitamins that I had been faithfully taking for about 16 months now.

I scheduled my baseline ultrasound for that Friday so Josh and I could go ahead and start the injections and everything again quickly.  At the doctor's (before the exam even began) I had the opportunity to share a little about Christ and the reason Josh and I were hopeful during this discouraging time.  However, when the doctor performed my baseline ultrasound he gave me  some bad news; we could not begin the shots again yet.  I had developed a severe ovarian cyst (which explained why I was in pain that whole week) and we would not even be able to begin trying again until the end of September.  He said that the injections would make my cyst worse so we needed to let my body heal for about a month and a half.  With that news, he wrote me a prescription for birth control to regulate my hormones.  For some reason, I felt very strongly about not taking the pills and after explaining to him that I didn’t want them, I left and called Josh to tell him.

Later that day New Student Orientation began.  Because I worked 12 hours that Friday and another 13 hours on Saturday, I did not have much time to process what we had been told.  However, on Sunday it hit me on the way home from church.  I was pretty down so I thought it would be good to get out and go play Ultimate Frisbee. I have not been playing much lately because when I’m not sure if I’m pregnant or not, I don’t want to take a chance (so there is only about a week and a half each month that I’ve been able to play).  I tried to run a lot but my lower stomach started hurting extremely bad.  After awhile I left thinking I had pushed myself too far and had ruptured the cyst.

The next few days were still ridiculously busy and this is when I realized how bad I was doing at taking care of myself.  Last night when I got home, I mentioned to Josh that I have been convicted about the way I had been eating and my lack of sleep.  I had created a plan to get back into a good routine and then I mentioned to him that I was 99.9% sure I was not pregnant, but just in case I wanted to test.  We went to the store and bought one of the cheap tests (the same kind we have used over 30 times in the past 16 months).  We came back and took the test.  Any other time we would have been leaning over the thing waiting to see the results, but at this point we were convinced that I couldn’t be pregnant. 

After folding a few items of clothes in the bedroom I walked into the bathroom where we had left the test and to my complete surprise I saw a small faint line!  I immediately called Josh in the bathroom and we both agreed that it was because the test was not complete.  For the next 15 minutes we checked it over and over again and it became very clear that it was showing positive results!!!  I was so baffled and even asked Josh to read the directions to see if I had done it correctly.  We wanted to be so excited, but were both convinced this was a false-positive.  We thought that the cyst had something to do with the results or maybe even that some of the hormones from my injections were still in my body.  We researched the internet for about 15 minutes to see if there would be any indication of false-positives resulting from ovarian cysts, but we could not find a clear answer.  Finally I broke down and called the emergency number for my fertility specialist.  When I caught her up to speed she congratulated me!  She said that, if the pregnancy test showed a positive result I was most likely pregnant, but to come in the next morning for an official test. 

We called a few individuals from our church who we knew would not jump the gun and get excited for us; but who we knew would pray for us, and our hearts.  We wanted so much to be excited but were desperately seeking prayer that we would glorify the Lord regardless of the results.

So, this morning Josh and I woke up bright and early and were at the doctor's office when the doors opened.  They drew blood and told us they would call us this afternoon.  Around 8:00 am I received a call from a very dear friend who had been praying for Josh and I.  She had been reading from the Psalms each morning and it just so happens that this morning she was on Psalm 113, which reads:

Praise the LORD.  Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD. Let the name of the LORD be praised, both now and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised.  The LORD is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens.  Who is like the LORD our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?  He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes, with the princes of their people. He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the LORD.

I knew this was going to be a long, emotion-filled day regardless of the results.  I had a meeting at work at 9:00 and Josh had to be at work for the 1st day of Kindergarten by 11:00 am.  At 10:20, as my meeting was finishing up, the doctor called and began with, “Amanda, as you probably already know… YOU'RE PREGNANT!”   Ahhhhhhhh!   I was so excited!!!  I immediately left work (the only things I grabbed were my keys and the phone I was still talking on).  I called Josh as soon as I hung up with the doctors office and asked if he had already left for work.  He had, so I asked him to come back and meet me at home.  A few minutes later as he walked through the front door, I jumped in his arms and the flood of happy tears began.  We are going to be parents!!!  The Lord has blessed us with a child!!!

Josh and I collapsed on the living room floor and began praying to God who has ordained every step of this journey!  We thanked Him for this new life he has blessed us with and we prayed for the salvation of our little one.  Even as I write this, I am still joyfully crying because I can’t believe it’s finally the Lord’s timing for us!

As if we hadn’t been blessed enough, late this evening Josh went to check the mail because we had not had a chance to do it at any other point during the day.  Mixed into the stack of bills was an envelope from a dear couple we went to college with.  In the envelope was a letter (written two days ago) filled with scripture encouraging us in our journey.  The last line of the letter stated that they were praying that the fulfillment of our desires would be just around the corner.  Attached to the letter was a check that will cover many of the medical bills that have accrued over the past couple of months.  Can you believe it?  Wow, God, again you are so amazing!

So to all of you who have walked this road with us so far, please remember that our Lord is faithful! I am so thankful for our family and friends who have encouraged us in so many ways.  I pray that the Lord will continue teaching me a lot through motherhood and I am sure many different kinds of trials lie ahead that I will not understand when I am going through them, but I know that if the Lord can bring us through this and show us His faithfulness we can trust Him for any trials that may ever arise.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How to Encourage a Friend Experiencing Infertility

After explaining what constitutes infertility I thought it would be neat to discuss what techniques of encouragement are most helpful and what techniques are more difficult to handle for someone struggling with infertility.  Let me begin by saying that my intent in writing the following is not to vent or to draw attention to any specific person or a possible mistake they have made.  My purpose is solely to educate so that as Christians we can spur one another on in love and be more intentional in the words that we choose.  James 3:2 says, “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.”  If we are honest with ourselves, we can all think of a time when we have lied, manipulated the truth, spoke harshly, spoke with sarcasm, or hurt someone with our thoughtless words.  Therefore we should all reflect back on the gospel. We are all sinners, and Jesus (who was completely perfect) paid our penalty on the cross, so that we can be declared righteous and live for all of eternity in heaven with God!

Once we have understood that truth we can strive to love one another better.  Hebrews 10:24 says, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  I have heard this verse many times but one part I continually forget is the “consider” aspect.  Many times when we have a friend who is struggling with a problem, we don’t know how to respond.  There are many ways to “spur on” another including relating through your own life experiences, giving advice, presenting alternatives that take the focus off the actual problem, just sitting and listening to them, speaking Truth to them, and praying for them.  Regardless of any type of situation a friend is going through, we must always evaluate what is the most loving way to encourage them.

In my experience, the least helpful ways to encourage a friend struggling with infertility include trying to relate when you haven’t actually experienced infertility, giving advice, and trying to change the focus of the problem.  For example, some women who tried getting pregnant for a few months and choose to make a few lifestyle changes have been blessed with children.  With good intentions, these individuals may try to share their experience in hopes that their friend who is struggling with infertility will become pregnant after making the same changes.  Yes, changing eating habits, exercising, lowering stress levels, going to a chiropractor, and even getting acupuncture treatments can benefit the body of a woman trying to get pregnant; however, these things do not result in pregnancy any more than our good works get us into heaven.  God alone creates life and what we all need to understand is that what may have worked for one woman, God may not use to work in another.

Also, some women try to comfort her infertile friend by suggesting, “Well, you could always just adopt.”  Again, yes, this is true, but I guarantee that any woman struggling with infertility has already considered that possibility.  Adoption is a wonderful option and I strongly believe that this glorifies the Lord; however, surely you can understand how this comment seems insensitive when brought up at the wrong moment.  One of the most frustrating comments for an infertile woman to hear is, “Well, I hear that many women who adopt end up having a baby of their own.  You should just start the adoption process so you can get pregnant.”  First, this is not true, it is a MYTH!!!   In fact, since 1970 the number of parents who have become pregnant AFTER adopting has fluctuated back and forth from 3% to 10%.  Regardless, these are not significant numbers.  Furthermore, I can’t name one woman who would want to tell their child that the only reason they chose to adopt was in hopes to have a biological child.  How insignificant would that child feel?  How unloved?  No, if a family does choose to adopt, it should be for the reason that they want to love the child just as equally as they would had it been through a biological birth.  We must be wise when trying to present alternative options to our friends.  Although your intention is to take the focus off their pain, this is not the best way to encourage her.

Instead, sitting with her and listening to what she is going through means so much more.  It can become very difficult to deal with medications, invasive doctors appointments, and hormone imbalances. Another important aspect is speaking Truth to her.  By encouraging her with scripture, you can offer hope and help direct her attention to where it needs to be.  Helping her have an eternal perspective will benefit her when things don’t go as planned, when medications don’t work, or when it doesn’t seem like the finances will permit her and her husband to continue treatments.  Most importantly, pray with her!  Be specific in your prayers and follow up with any prayer requests she may have.  For me, knowing that I have friends who are willing to walk with me spiritually is so much more important than being comforted by human words and advice.   To demonstrate love to a friend struggling with infertility, evaluate her situation, think about what you are going to say before you say it, and consider what would be the best way to encourage her.

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, "Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.”  -1 Peter 3:8-22

Monday, July 27, 2009

What infertility IS and IS NOT

In my last post I mentioned that to honor the Lord we must seek out wisdom and not remain ignorant in what’s going on in the world.  I have recently felt the responsibility to share some of the things I’ve been learning about infertility through research and my own personal experiences.

Many women (with good intentions) try to sympathize with the struggle of an infertile woman by suggesting that they are also suffering from infertility.  Although they are trying to relate and show love to her, this actually makes the infertile woman feel like her problem is insignificant.  Also, if the woman claiming to be struggling with infertility suddenly becomes pregnant without having ever been diagnosed or going through medical treatments, jealously and bitterness can become a temptation for the woman who is truly struggling with infertility. For this reason, I would like to share a few basic things about pregnancy and infertility.

  • Pregnancy is the result of a process that has many steps including ovulation, fertilization, and implantation. If a consistent problem exists among any of these steps the result could be infertility.
  • Infertility is the inability of a couple to become pregnant after at least one year (or 6 months if the woman is 35 years of age or older) of having unprotected intentionally- timed sexual intercourse.
  • Infertility also includes women who can get pregnant but are unable to stay pregnant.
  • Infertility is NOT the fear that you might not get pregnant when you one day start trying.
  • Infertility is NOT the frustrated feeling after a few months of trying to get pregnant.
  • Infertility is NOT assuming you can not have children because you have other medical conditions that may decrease your chances of getting pregnant (i.e. Endometriosis or Pelvic Inflammatory Disease) – Many doctors tell women when they are very young that they may have difficulty having children one day when they begin trying, this does NOT mean they are infertile!  For example, many young ladies find out they have endometriosis shortly after starting their period.  What they are not told is that 35% of ALL women experience endometriosis at some point in their life and of those, only 10% struggle with infertility. What the doctors are actually concerned about is that the woman’s body will make too many prostaglandins that in turn imbalance the woman’s hormones decreasing her chances of getting pregnant.
  • Infertility can be caused by a problem within men and women.
  • Infertility is determined by a doctor.
  • Infertility should NOT be self-diagnosed.
  • Infertility usually results in various treatments (oral medications, injections, surgeries, etc.)
  • Infertility does NOT mean that the individual will always be incapable of reproducing.
So, with this knowledge, if you have never struggled with true infertility I plead with you, for the sake of helping the hearts of the many women who are, please just encourage your friend with scripture.  Do not try to relate to her situation, but instead point her to the only one who does fully understand and is in complete control over her problem, God!

Monday, July 20, 2009

IN the World but not OF the World

So Josh and I just celebrated out 5th Anniversary!  We went on a cruise and it was wonderful.  It was nice to get away for a week and not think about a lot of stuff.  However, in many ways I feel like the Lord is teaching me a lot about being IN the world but not OF the world.

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.    - I John 2:15-17

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.    - Eph 4:17-19

As Christians, we are called to a higher standard of living.  No doubt, we will fail at times, but we must endure and strive to live a life that glorifies the Lord.  Many times there are not clear answers about what is right and wrong and we just have to depend on conviction of the Holy Spirit; however, many of our answers can be found in scripture if we just look for it.  Sometimes we are just too lazy to read the Bible and see what it has to say, and that’s when we begin to believe that what is common in our culture must be okay because everyone else accepts it as okay.  I can think of two recent examples.

First, when Josh and I were on the cruise we went to a midnight game show where everyone got into groups of 10 people.  Each group was given a number on a card for their group.  The announcer would then say “I’m looking for….” and he would either name an item (like a hairbrush) or an activity (like someone completing 10 pushups).  At that point, once the group had found the item or had a volunteer to complete the activity they would run up on stage and present the group number and the item to collect points.  The group that completed the challenge the quickest received the most points.  This sounded like a lot of fun to us so we joined a group and began to introduce ourselves.  Almost immediately, one of the other ladies turned to Josh and said, “Since your one of the only guys in our group, you know you’ll have to take off your pants right?”   WHAT?  We were both baffled.  After about 3 minutes, every person in the group had tried to persuade Josh to “Take one for the team”, or “Loosen up, you’re on vacation.” So we left.  What a bummer.  Come to find out (we heard about it the next day), the last challenge of the game was to send one male and one female from each group to the announcer and they had to entirely switch wardrobes.  It just baffles me that about 100 people got completely naked on a stage and had no reservations about it at all. As Christians, we can live in the world and love people for Jesus, but we must not take part in activities that would not honor the Lord.

Another recent example comes from our most recent visit to the doctor.  Josh and I have done some research about In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).  We now understand exactly what it is, how it works, the history of the science experiments behind it, the costs, etc.  I plan to write another blog about this sometime soon; however, it’s way too much to go into right now.  Ultimately, we decided that this was definitely not the next step for us.  When we returned from our cruise we met with our doctor to discuss other possible fertility options.  He immediately brought up IVF and began going over the success statistics.  We kindly interrupted him and told him that because of our beliefs we would not be interested in this option.  He automatically assumed that we were Catholic and began to tell us how many priests now are agreeing that IVF is okay because having a family is so important.  After explaining to him that we were not Catholic then he proceeded to explain why other denominations now agree with IVF.  This surprised me a little more.  You see, I can’t imagine worshiping God, the author of creation and the giver of life, while standing beside someone who I know feels no guilt to practice selective reduction (also called selective termination or abortion) when women become pregnant with multiple embryos.  Again, we explained to him that in our research we have found that IVF doesn’t fix a problem in the body, but it fixes a desire to be a parent.  As Christians, we should have one primary desire, and that’s to honor the Lord.  Nothing (even the desire to have children) should come before honoring the Lord.  Thankfully, our doctor then changed subjects and we discussed alternative options.

I share all of this to plead with my fellow brothers and sisters to research common practices in our culture.  Even if everyone else (including other Christians) say it’s okay, the Bible may not.  Listen to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, pray for discernment, and seek out wise counsel from mature fellow believers.  Ultimately, we will be held accountable for decisions we make.  Do not choose poorly because of ignorance.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Round 2

With only two days left before going back to the doctor to find out if we were pregnant I woke up with very bad stomach pains and realized I had started my cycle.  Although I was very sad, my heart still continued to rest in the promise that God is sovereign and has a perfect plan.  Josh and I were able to spend much of the morning in the Word and delight in the many blessing that we have despite not being pregnant.

I went to the doctor on Tuesday and they were able to verify that I had no ovarian cysts and I could begin the injections again that night.  (Ovarian Cysts are a common result from women undergoing fertility treatments because they are products of failed or disordered ovulation. An ovarian cyst is formed when the follicle does not release its egg and the follicle continues to grow or if the follicle releases the egg but the hole where the egg was does not close up like it should.) So, that night we were able to begin injections of Brevelle. During the first series of shots we had used Gonal-f which seemed to work just fine, but we had won the Brevelle injections in the raffle so we thought now was the best time to use that medication.  We had to be re-trained on how to prep and administer this new kind of injection because it was very different from the Gonal-f.  It took a lot longer to prepare each night and it was much more of a painful. Over the next few days I tried to fight back the emotional mood swings this new medicine caused.  I was not sad, or depressed about anything, but I would cry off and on all day, for no reason at all.  Friday night was the worst.  Because the shots had been hurting so bad and leaving such horrible bruises on my stomach I actually fainted as Josh was trying to give me the shot.  As I pulled myself off the kitchen floor I knew it was not worth it, we needed to switch back to the Gonal-f even if we had to pay more for it.  I had a doctor’s appointment that Saturday and they gave the go ahead to switch back so I placed an online order so would arrive first thing the next business day.

On Monday, when I went back to the doctor, they checked my estrogen levels and they were at a 35 pmol/lt.  Estrogen levels in women rise as follicles are maturing and mine was still rather low.  However, by Thursday’s appointment it had rose to a level of 600 pmol/lt.  A normal estrogen level at the time of ovulation is around 500 pmol/lt.  When the doctors recognized this, they told me to continue taking my Gonal-f shots because I had one or two follicles that were maturing but were not yet 18 mm (the measurement they need to be at for ovulation).  The doctors also asked me to take a second shot each night called Ganirelix Acetate, which prevents the egg from releasing prematurely.  Fortunately, the actual Ganirelix shot did not hurt, but for about an hour afterwards it felt like I had a Charlie Horse in my stomach (not very pleasant to say the least).

Saturday morning, I went back to the doctor in hopes they would tell me that I was ready to take my last shot (of Ovidrell).  Ovidrell is the shot I take to induce ovulation.  However, after an unusually long ultrasound with the nurse, the doctor approached me and said, “We’re going to have to end your cycle for this month.”  Bummer!  My heart sank.  What they had seen on the ultrasound was not that the medicine didn’t work….but that it worked too well!  In two days I had developed 7-8 follicles that could potentially be released when I ovulated. Had the doctors not seen this, I could have been the next Octo-mom.  Yikes!!!   He actually explained to me that this was exactly how Jon and Kate Gosselin ended up with sextuplets. He said that he had never seen anyone with this many mature follicles have less than four children.  He said that because of the health risk to me and the potential babies, if Josh and I did decide to continue trying to get pregnant during this cycle, their office would refuse to see me as a patient.  They also took my estrogen levels again and it had skyrocketed to 1700!  So, after an important lesson in abstinence, I made an appointment for the middle of July so we could talk about how to balance out the medications I am on.  Although I was really sad that we were again postponed one more month, I am thankful to know that the injections I am taking are actually working.  Now we are praying that the Lord will provide us (and of course the doctor’s) with the wisdom to know what is the proper dosage of medicine I need to get my body working just right.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Patient Endurance

I have been reading a book entitled Passion and Purity written by Elizabeth Elliot, missionary to the Quichua Indians in the 1950s and wife to Jim Elliot, who was killed by the spears of the Auca Indians.  Although her book is written mainly for singles that desire to be married, the underlying theme is contentment in all circumstances in which God has placed you.  I wanted to share several passages from the book that have really encouraged me over the past two weeks.

First, I am discovering how to be happy and joyful in circumstance that I would not choose for myself. 

“The problem starts when we make up our own minds what will give us happiness and then decide, if we don’t get exactly that, that God doesn’t love us.”

“I wished that my wishes were what God wished, and if my wishes were not what God wished, I wished that I could wish that my wishes would go away, but the wishes were still there.”

“I wait. Dear Lord, Thy ways are past finding out, Thy love too high. O hold me still beneath Thy shadow. It is enough that Thou lift up the light of Thy countenance. I wait because I am commanded so to do. My mind is filled with my wonderings. My soul asks ”Why?” But then the quiet word, “Wait thou only upon God.” And so, not even for the light to show a step ahead, But for thee, dear Lord, I wait.”

I also learned that I must not wish away the time I have with my husband right now.  There are so many things that he and I can do with one another and for others right now that we will not be able to do once the Lord does bless us with biological or adopted children.  Elizabeth explains this same underlying principle in her book.

“The important thing is to receive this moment’s experience with both hands.  Don’t waste it.  “Wherever you are, be all there,” Jim once wrote.  “Live to the hilt of every situation you believe to be the will of God.” A lovely moonlit night, but I am alone.  Shall I resent the very moonlight itself because my lover is somewhere else? A cozy candlelit supper with friends- couples except for me.  Shall I be miserable all evening because they are together and I am single?  Have I been “cheated”?  Who cheated me? The phone rings.  Oh!  Maybe it will be he! It is somebody selling light bulbs.  Shall I be rude because he ought to have been somebody else? A letter in the mailbox that (for once) doesn’t look like junk mail or a bill.  I snatch it eagerly.  It’s from Aunt Susie.  Do I throw it aside in disgust?

I know all about this kind of response.  I’ve been there many times. Something I wrote to Jim once must have revealed my resentment, for he wrote, “Let not our longings slay the appetite for our living.”  That was exactly what I had let it do.

There were times, I’m sure, when if anyone had tried to talk to me of the happiness of heaven I would have turned away in a huff.  The painful thing was that the other folks had not only heaven to look forward to, but they had “all this and heave too,”  “this” being engagement or marriage.  I was covetous.  When the Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman Christians about the happy certainty of heaven, he went on to say, “This doesn’t mean, of course, that we have only a hope of future joys- we can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troubles.”

Even when I’m feeling most alone- on that moonlit night, in the middle of a candlelit supper, when the phone call and the letter don’t come- can I be “full of joy, here and now”?  Yes.  That is what the Bible says.  That means it must not be true, but possible, and possible for me.”

And finally, how I respond to my current situation will either glorify God or destroy my witness.  I pray that God is magnified in how I respond to any situation.

“The effect of my trouble depends not on the nature of the troubles themselves but on how I receive them.”

“What matters is making the right use of it [suffering], taking advantage of the sense of helplessness it brings to turn one’s thoughts to God.  Trust is the lesson.”

“The deepest spiritual lessons are not learned by his letting us have our own way in the end, but by making us wait, bearing with us in love and patience until we are honestly able to pray what he taught his disciples to pray:  Thy will be done.  Acceptance of whatever that means is the great victory of faith that overcomes the world.”

“If the yearnings went away, what would we have to offer to the Lord?  Aren’t they given to us to offer?  It is control of passion, not its eradication, that is needed.  How would we learn to submit to the authority of Christ if we had nothing to submit?”

I hope in some way these passages from Elizabeth Elliot’s book has been an encouragement to you too in whatever circumstance the Lord has you in.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Thorn In My Side

Reflecting on 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 this week has shed some light on this continued process of fertility treatments.  In this letter to the Corinthians, Paul was presenting his credentials because he was trying to reestablish his credibility and his authority that false teachers had tried to destroy.  In this letter Paul says:

"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Paul never defines exactly what the thorn in his flesh actually is.  Commentaries suggest it could be anything from malaria, epilepsy, Jewish persecution, or even a speech impediment.  The fact is that it was something that affected his ministry, it was given to him by God (through Satan), and it forced him to rely on Christ.  Well, as I have shared in previous blogs, this struggle with infertility has affected my ministry with other women, I believe it is under the control of our sovereign God, and it most certainly has made me more dependent on Christ.

So, as part of “my thorn” of infertility I have begun daily injections.  And, for the sake of a good laugh I thought I would share so please feel free make fun of me all you want after reading this.  When I went to the doctor on May 18th they said that I should begin the injections that night. So to begin, let me explain that I have an irrational fear of needles.  No really, please understand me, I really do have an IRRATIONAL FEAR of needles! Up until last fall I still cried when I got shots.  After all the blood work I had to go through I got over that pretty quick.  Nurses can prick me with just about anything at this point, that's not a problem. But the fact that I have to prepare the medicine, fill the syringe, and actually give it to myself really was freaking me out! 

That first night, it took me 45 minutes to actually get it done.  I would get ready to give myself the shot and I would count aloud, "One … Two…" and then yell, "Ahhh, I can't do it, I can't do it, I can't do it."  This didn't just happen once, but over and over again. Next, I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t going to be any worse than a pinch.  So I started pinching myself on the arm to psyche myself up.  It still didn’t work.  Later, I realized that my mind was playing tricks on me.  I would look down at the needle that was only and inch and a half long in reality and in my eyes would see it as 8 inches long.  I really believed that it was going to go straight through me or at least puncture some vital organ. Finally after some tears, praying, singing a few hymns, and reciting scripture, Josh was able to give me the shot.  My husband showed me so much grace and love although I was acting like a baby.  Since then, my heart has been much better (even thought the shots are still pretty painful).  Josh is graciously still giving me the injections every night so thank the Lord for my amazing husband.  And although I have lots of little bruises all over my tummy, my doctor visits are going really well.  They can tell the injections are gradually regulating out my hormones!  Yeah!  So, like Paul, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, hardships, and difficulties, because God gives me the strength to endure so He can get all the glory!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Yeah Josh!

I just wanted everyone to know how proud of my husband I am.  After four years of studying at Southeastern Seminary he has completed his Masters of Divinity!  Over the past few years he has made many sacrifices for his studies.  He has read tons of books, written countless papers, taken numerous tests, and not once did he ever neglect his responsibilites as a godly husband.  I have seen many characteristics in Josh that remind me of faithful men from the Old Testament. Here are just a few examples:

Ezra 7:10     For Ezra had devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws.

Joshua 1:7-9     Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

Proverbs 9:9-10     Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Congrats Josh!  I am so proud of your perseverance and how you have allowed the Lord to work in you.  I love you.

Oh Baby (Part 2)

At the end of April Josh and I went to speak with the fertility specialist about remaining options for getting pregnant.  The doctor told us that they had discovered that my body was not producing FsH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone).  This is the hormone released by the pituitary gland that stimulates the growth of immature ovarian follicles in the ovary.  For a woman to get pregnant the follicle must mature and reach about 18 mm in diameter.  The option we were presented with was to begin daily injections of FsH.  This would require multiple visits to the doctor each week and very expensive meds.  In addition, I would have to attend a class that would train me on how to give myself the injections.  So, our only option at this point was beginning a process that Josh and I knew we could not afford.  When we left the doctor I was sad, but I think it was a good, hope-filled and trusting in the Lord kind of sad. One of those where I wish circumstances could be different, but knowing that God's plan is much better than my own. 

On the car ride home Josh and I prayed for three things:  wisdom, peace, and finances. We prayed that God would make it very clear if we were suppose to continue trying to get pregnant or to put our resources towards adoption.  We also prayed that God would grant peace to our hearts and that we would not be anxious during this process.  And we prayed that if God did want us to continue that he would provide the money we needed for all the appointments and medicines.

That afternoon I was able to research FsH and the variety of injections that the doctors could possibly put me on. I was also able to have an in depth conversation with a female friend who is an experienced nurse.  As I was researching the medicines I was able to look up approximate prices and estimate how much we would have to spend for one month of appointments and medicines…it totaled a over $1500.

Not even an hour later, Josh called me and asked if I was sitting down.  He had just received an e-mail from our church saying that someone had anonymously given our family $1,000!  At this point we had not told anyone of the appointment we had earlier that day or of our financial need.  We were completely blown away by this act of love.  Then, when I went home and checked the mailbox I discovered that my mom had sent us a $500 check that she had received from a tax refund.  My grandmother Susu had also sent some money in the mail just because she was thinking of us.  I could not believe it.  In less than 12 hours God answered all of our prayer requests.  He had allowed me the opportunity to research the medicines and determine that the use of them would not contradict our moral or biblical ethics, and he had provided family and friends with the resources to give generously to us.

The following Monday I got a call from my doctor to register for the injection class that would take place that Thursday.  Josh was able to come with me, which helped out a lot.  As we were waiting for the class to begin, Josh entered my name into two different raffle drawings.  One was for a month worth of free injections and the other was for acupuncture treatments.  We were joking with the nurses about how I am terrified of needles.  They were all laughing at me because I was adamantly trying to get Josh not to place my name in the acupuncture raffle box.  Immediately after the class we had to order all our meds online so they would arrive the next week.  First thing Monday morning I got a call from my doctor’s office.  “Congratulations, ” the nurse said.  “What?”  I had won the raffle for the free medications!  I couldn’t believe it.  I have NEVER won a raffle in my entire life!  I immediately tried to call the online pharmacy to see if they could change the order I placed the previous Thursday. However, at that exact moment, Fed Ex knocked on the door to deliver the meds.  Ha!  Later that afternoon, I got a call from Triangle Acupuncture Specialist informing I had won their raffle!  I just didn’t know what to think…I had won two drawings in the same day for a total of about $1000 worth of medical supplies and treatments.

I was quickly reminded of God’s faithfulness to provide for our every need.  Like He provided Adam and Eve clothing (Gen 3:21), a sacrifice for Abraham (Gen 22:8), food during the famine (Gen 45:11), manna for the Israelites wandering in the desert (Exo 16:35), and most importantly, He provided an atonement for our sins (Rom 3:21-26).  So, today I leave you with scripture that I feel like the Lord has proved evident in my life recently by providing us with peace and financial blessings.

Matthew 6:25-34

25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.