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.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Oh Baby!- Written April 23, 2009

I can’t believe it’s been a year. The first couple of months were great.  It was our little secret that no one else knew.  Not family, not friends, not anyone other than God and us.  We were naive, but having fun.  We would joke and laugh with one another saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” or “Practice makes perfect.”  All we knew was that we loved God, we loved each other, and we wanted to have a baby!

At first, I couldn’t get my mind off of being a mommy.  I would think of names, or ways we would announce our pregnancy to our family and friends.  I read articles, magazines and books about parenting.  I prayed and prayed and prayed for a healthy baby who would come to a saving knowledge of the Lord at an early age.  It brought me such joy to think about having a little one in our home.  I got even more excited when I skipped my cycle.  I took a pregnancy test but it was negative.  Slightly disappointed, and thinking it must be wrong, I took another one.  Still nothing.  I shrugged it off and we kept up our fun routine.  At this point I avoided conversation with people who were talking about children.  I didn’t want someone to ask if Josh and I were trying, because I liked our little secret and I couldn’t wait to see people’s expressions when we finally told them after four years of marriage we were expecting a baby!  Several times people did ask if we were trying, and being so wrapped up in wanting to keep our secret, I lied.

By the end of August (3 months later), we figured something might be wrong.  I had not had a cycle since May and I had seen more negative pregnancy tests than I care to even share.  Josh and I went to the doctor and she was very optimistic.  “We just need to give you a good jump start,” she said.  So, with that I began the regiment of taking pills, checking my basal body temperature to predict ovulation, and monthly blood work.  For three months we continued this routine.  The doctor was able to determine from the blood work that my progesterone levels were too low.  I discovered that you need to have a progesterone level of 10 -11 to get pregnant.  Mine varied from a 0.5 to a 1.1.

At this point, things became a lot less fun.  God was revealing to me that it wasn’t about my plan or even my abilities; it was about Him being the creator of life! Ironically, He was blessing many of my friends with this gift of life that I so very much desired.  From May of 2008 until the end of April 2009, 46 of my friends announced that they were pregnant!  I desired to be joyful and happy for my friends, but it was very difficult.  Some of them had just gotten married, some were not yet married, some already had kids, one even considered abortion.  Oh, how I had to fight to be happy for them and not jealous of their blessing.

Before I had even realized it I had jumped on this carousel of emotion that was spinning out of control.  Up and down, around and around.  Not one day was the same. I wrestled with pride and feared it would never let me escape.  I would say to myself, “Well, I’ve been married longer than they have” or “They don’t even have a relationship with God,” or “I don’t understand, I take very good care of my body.”  Other days I would struggle with beating myself up.  I would listen to the creative lies of Satan.  The same lies that Job’s friends tried to convince him of.  Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar told Job to repent because it was his fault that all the horrific things were happening in his life.  In the same way, I cried and pleaded with God to forgive me of whatever I had done to bring this “punishment” on Josh and I.  On several occasions I even told Josh that I was sorry he was stuck with me.  I make myself sick with guilt because I thought I had robbed Josh of ever having biological children.  With more patience than any one person could ever have, he just hugged me and loved me more and more.

I continued going to the doctor and in November she put me on clomid. Clomid is the most common fertility treatment to induce regular ovulation and its purpose is to decrease estrogen and increase FSH (follicle stimulating hormone). However, this medication is associated with uterine cancer if it’s used for long periods of time.  We came up with a three-month plan with increasing dosages (although we hoped the first round would be sufficient).

In the meantime, we had begun to tell those in our church, our other close friends, and of course, our family.  Conversations at Thanksgiving and Christmas included telling people there was a chance that we could not have kids. Although, I know people had good intentions, it became very frustrating to hear story after story of how a family had become pregnant after adopting, or going through a few months of fertility treatments.  I understood people were trying to encourage me; however, all I could think was “That’s great for them, but God never says in the Bible that He promises ME a child.”  I became bitter at my friends who were pregnant and complained about morning sickness.  It drove me crazy!  I wanted to shake a few individuals and scream at the top of my lungs, “Do you know how blessed you are?  Shut up!  Stop grumbling.  I would gladly be nauseous and throw up if that meant that God was knitting together a baby within my womb!”  I had a hard time focusing on the many blessings within my own life.

At the end of January, I received a phone call from my doctor.  “Well,” she said, “The last treatment of Clomid didn’t work.  There’s nothing else I can do for you except refer you to a specialist.”  My heart sank.  “What other options can a specialist offer me?”  I asked.  “The only other thing I know of is in vitro fertilization,” she said.  My heart sank further.  I began to cry.  Josh and I had already discussed that we do not agree with in vitro because of the details of the process and the experimentation process prior to its approval.  I cried more.  All I could think was, “Wow, I really can’t have kids.”

Josh and I have always said that we want to adopt; however, I didn’t realize it was going to be our only option.  Later that evening I called a dear friend who has been struggling with infertility for several years and who is currently in the adoption process.  She was so compassionate and loving in her words to me.  She explained to me how she felt the day her doctor had given her the same news.  She described it as if I had lost a loved one and she said that I needed to go through the grieving process.  She said this was necessary because what I lost (although it was not tangible) was very real and was a very painful thing to lose.  I had lost the idea of being able to feel a baby kick within my stomach.  I had lost the idea of hours of labor being rewarded by gazing into the beautiful eyes of a newborn.  I had lost the idea of bearing a child that looks like Josh and I. My friend reminded me that I wouldn’t always feel like how I did that day, and that eventually I would come to accept this as part of my life.  I couldn’t imagine when that day would come.

One huge fear that I began to struggle with was how I was going to be able to continue ministering to younger married women.  I had been in a few relationships where I had been intentional about mentoring women who had been recently married.  When these women became pregnant, they gradually (and I’m sure without even thinking about it) stopped hanging out with me as much.  To be honest, I couldn’t blame them.  If a woman is struggling with morning sickness, or trying to work through how she wants to best discipline her children, would she rather go to someone who has read books about the subject or would she rather go to someone with experience?  The obvious answer is someone who has experience.  Of course it would be silly for them to come to me to talk about the pains of childbirth, knowing that I had never experienced it.  I was realizing that in many ways (but not all) I was now incapable of mentoring them.  This broke my heart even more.

February approached and I realized it was the 9 month mark of when we had began trying to get pregnant.  I had to fight off sinful thoughts like “We could be having a baby right now, if my body would work right.”  I began confessing these thoughts to several sweet sisters much more frequently. And then, I began to truly see a difference in my attitude. Instead of listening to the lies that Satan had been using to beat me down I began preaching Truth to myself.  I know I have recited Philippians 4:4-7 to myself over 1,000 times in the past 6 months.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

This change in my attitude was a HUGE blessing from God.  This demonstration of God’s grace in my life was an extraordinary encouragement.  And, like most of God’s blessings, it came at just the right time.  Many of my friends who had announced they were pregnant right after Josh and I had started trying, were now having their babies.  For the first time in a really long time, I was able to be truly joyful and happy for others.  I was able to look at their blessing and not be jealous.  The month of March brought with it 7 baby showers (several of which I had been asked to help plan).  ONLY by God’s grace alone, was I able to make it through all of these.

At the end of March I began seeing the fertility specialist.  Unlike my other doctor he was much more optimistic.  So far, we have tried a few other prescriptions, none of which are working and soon Josh and I will meet with him to discuss further options.

I realize I may never really know why God has brought Josh and I down this path, but I can already see that He definitely does have His hand in all of this.  So, to wrap up, here are two essential truths that I have been reminded of:

  1. Who God is. God is sovereign and I am not.  He is the one who created the heavens and the Earth. He is the giver of life. He is in complete control all of the time. He does not rest.  He does not grow weary.  He knows the outcome of all circumstances.  He loves me and knows what is BEST for me.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:27-29

  1. Who I am. I am sinner who had offended a Holy God and was eternally separated from Him; however, because of Jesus death on the cross as atonement for my sins I now stand righteous in the sight of God.   There is nothing I can do to make Him love me more and there is nothing I can do to make Him love me less.  But out of the overflow of my heart I will choose to serve and worship Him alone.  This gift of eternal life through Christ Jesus is the biggest blessing anyone could ever receive and I have NOTHING to complain about and I have EVERYTHING to be thankful for!

My soul will rejoice in the LORD and delight in his salvation.”  Psalm 35:9

Joy of Our Salvation- Written January 16, 2009

Around 11:30 last night, Josh and I were finishing up a board game and about to go to bed when Josh received a text message from his younger brother Zach.  All it said was, “Hey brother, I just got saved!”  Josh without speaking a word, showed it to me and we both stared at one another with wide eyes and mouths hanging open.  Josh immediately tried calling Zach to see what was going on.  Next, he got a text that said, “I’ll call you when I get off work.”  After what seemed like forever (probably only about 30 minutes), the phone finally rang.  Although I was sitting across the room, I could hear the excitement in Zach’s voice through the phone.  Josh and Zach talked for a while about what had happened. 

I am writing this for several reasons.  First, to give glory to God! So many times we forget what it was like when we first got saved.  The excitement.  The passion.  The overwhelming desire to take it all in.  Oh, how can we ever forget that? But we do…daily…in every situation when we choose our desires over God’s, we forget. I pray that anyone reading this will remember and reflect on the grace that saved you from an eternity apart from God; that we will grasp the weight of our sin; and that we remember God alone is sovereign.  That “At just the right time, when we were still powerless (it was not of our own efforts), Christ died for the ungodly (for us). Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (he died for me and you). Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! (We have been saved from wrath because Jesus stands in our place!).  For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life (We are no longer enemies but friends with God and co-heirs with Jesus)?  Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:6-11).  Wow, I just can’t believe that we forget this truth so often.  Even if we know it in our heart and minds, we forget to live it out and be truly grateful each day... Thank you so much Lord, for giving us reminders like the salvation of loved ones!

Secondly, I want to thank the Lord for brokenness over my own sin of doubt.  For so long now Josh and I have prayed for members of our families; that they would come to know the Lord.  Why do I doubt that God can work in others?  Why do I doubt that members of our own family will come to know Christ?  Well, simply put, because I have little faith and because I am full of pride!  There is no reason for me to ever doubt that the God who created the world and everything in it cannot change the heart of man.  I clearly do not have a right perspective of who God is, or for that matter, an accurate view of who I am!  As Paul says in 1 Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.”  In my pride, I must not truly believe that I’m the worst of sinners.  Because if I did believe that, I would never cease to be grateful for God’s unending blessings, first and foremost eternal life with Him!  One problem is that I compare myself with others.  I look at my sin and instead of acknowledging it for what it really is, disobedience to a holy God; I minimize what I have done and place it on a worldly scale that ranks the extremity of sin based on possible consequences while here on earth.  I convince myself of this lie to make me feel better about myself.  WHY?  Because I am afraid to admit that if my judgmental thought is just as bad as the murder that was committed by someone else then, there is no true justice.  The truth is, that sin (no matter how big or small) is what demonstrates that we cannot live up to the perfect standard that God has set for us.  And because of our sin, we deserve to be eternally separated from God.  However, his gift to us is forgiveness through Christ so we can be reconciled with Him.  So, knowing that my sin is no less significant than that of the most dangerous criminal, why do I so easily forget the amount of grace and mercy poured out on my life?  Why do I ever doubt that God could pour out the same grace and mercy on my family?  He did it for Zach.  He can do it for your loved ones.  Believe that the Lord is all-powerful and truly sovereign!  Pray with confidence.

In the beginning...

So, I’m trying something new.  Trying to catch up with the technological advances of our day.  Last year I set up a facebook account, last week I figured out skype…and now I’m starting a blog.  Who knows what’s next, I may even attempt to figure out twitter!

In all seriousness, I wanted to create a blog so I can share some of the amazing ways God has been working in my life.  You know that feeling when you have some news and you’re just so excited to share it with someone?  Well, that seems to be my whole life lately. 

As I was taking an Old Testament class this past semester, my professor, Mrs. Midkiff, continued to point out God’s progressive revelation in the Bible.  This is the belief that God did not give full theological knowledge to humans in the beginning. Rather, God gradually revealed truth over time.  He did this at a rate slow enough that humans were capable of fully absorbing them.  For example, Genesis 3:15 mentions that the offspring of Eve would crush the serpent (Satan).  Although it does not actually give Jesus’ name, God reveals this many years later when Jesus defeated the Devil through his death and resurrection. Progressive revelation is not the belief that God is continuing to deliver new truths today, but that God has revealed his nature and character fully through the Bible and left us with the resource to understand the past, present, and future through his Word alone.  In a similar way, I feel like God also demonstrates this by revealing mysteries in our own lives. Many times we cannot figure out why we are going through certain situations…but God knows.  We are not meant to begin our journey with all the pieces of the puzzle.  He chooses to reveal one piece at a time to us when he knows it is best for us.  Sometimes he even chooses not to reveal why, but one day we will be able to look back and see the complete picture.  Therefore, I decided to blog so that not only I could reflect back on this “Mysterious Journey” and see the evidences of God’s hand in my life, but so others could see it too.  May you be encouraged at how God is at work in my life and in yours.