"...suffering is one of the universal conditions of being alive. We all suffer. We have become terribly vulnerable, not because we suffer, but because we have separated ourselves from each other." -- Rachel Naoimi Remen

Friday, January 31, 2014

All the time

We bonded over the bedside.  A physical therapist walked in on me conversing with a patient in broken Spanish, her native language, and I think that gave her a soft spot in her heart for me.  Sure, it's best to communicate with patients in their own language and I happen to speak enough medical Spanish to get along, but it's rarely appreciated by other staff.  On this fond day of my memory, it was nice to be noticed and it seems like myself and this woman have had a special connection since then.  It made us a little more than work acquaintances. 

Today we ran into each other, after having not seen each other probably for months, and she asked how my baby was.  That happens often, which of course I appreciate, although it also causes me to wonder... does she know he's not a baby anymore?  Do people forget that he is 3 now, or do they think I have a baby too? 

At any rate, this was quickly followed by a, "don't you want to have another?"

"Yes, yes we do.  We have had really bad luck in that department."

She replied, "Well, keep trying... God is good."

I nodded and smiled, "All the time." 

Yes, God is good... all the time.
All. the. time.
God is good.

It's something you've probably heard in church somewhere sometime and I know I've heard it many times before, but I don't know if I've ever said it to someone in conversation and I'm quite certain I've never said it at work. 

Let me be clear: this coworker of mine did not offend me today. 

And yet, I can't get it off my mind.  I was glad I knew what to say back, for once.  (Although I'm fairly confident she didn't get my point.) 
I wished, though, that she had known what to say.  (But I know that's hard, very hard.)

This recurring statement, these repeated attempts at empathy that I continue to experience, cause me to wonder... why.  Why do Christians, why good people who care about us, continue to repeatedly insist that we keep trying.  What is it about trying? 

Just like my sister-in-law isn't less of a women without a man, my husband and I aren't less of a family without 2.5 children.  I am so sick of listening to what the world tells us we need to have.  

[As if elf on the shelf and valentines at preschool weren't bad enough,
I will not be pressured into wanting to try anymore if I don't want to try anymore. 
In fact, I do want to try more.  But only if it's going to be successful,
and if that can't happen then I want to quit trying. 
Quitting trying will not make me less of a woman or wife. 
Quitting trying will not make me less of a Christian.]

I'm a firm believer that miscarriage and infertility are not God's work.  They're a product of our broken and fallen world.  He's not up there smiling down when babies die or celebrating some of my dear friends who never get to see two pink lines.  It was most certainly not His design for our sex lives to revolve around a thermometer. 

We cannot deny our imperfect humanity.  Science, medicine and the disease and despair that come with them are facts of life.  And yet, God is good, all the time. 

God is good, all the time.  He's good when babies die.  He's good when our hopes go unrealized.

I'm not angry when people suggest that we keep trying, I just don't understand it, especially not when they invoke God's name as a reference point for why we shouldn't stop trying. 

Maybe God wants my husband and I to start trying to travel!  Maybe he wants couples all over the world to stop focusing on what they don't have and start focusing on what we do. 

In my opinion, insistence that we keep trying
suggests that God will be good when _xx_ happens. 
No... God is good, all the time. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I can't find in the bible where God tells us he'll give us every one of our personal goals and desires.  When our hope truly is in Him, we should stop trying so hard to accomplish our own agenda.  If there comes a time in our lives when we realize this, then it's ok to toss in the towel.  When our hope truly is in Him, we need to discern what exactly He wants from us and get on with it.  Why are my Christian brothers and sisters trying to tell me otherwise?  Why do they suggest I stay in some rut? 

Friends, if you're not ready to stop trying, then don't.  By all means, keep trying, because God is good.

But if you're not sure you're on the right course.  If your heart doesn't feel full, ask God what He wants to fill it with. 

God is good.  All the time. 
Let's be sure we're talking to him to find out what good He wants for us today. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


As a mother I often fret about my son growing up in a world or attitude of entitlement.  It's a very real issue that I suspect will only become tougher to strive against as the years go on.

At the same time, I'm thankful I'm not part of that 'entitlement' generation.

Wait, what? 

Maybe I'm too old to be a Milenial, by definition. 
    Maybe I know what it means to work hard for what I earn and desire.
        But, let's face it... I'm a little entitled too.  Call it what you want...

This is a intermittent and revolving thought process that's definitely something I struggle with.  (And if you don't think it's something you struggle with, maybe you aren't thinking hard enough.) 

On the one hand, when I think about my unrealized parenting dreams, I feel it's unfair.  "I deserve more." 

On the other hand, I know from having visited and worked briefly in the developing world, that what I have is abundance.  And it's not just the baby monitors and multiple roomed house kind of abundance; I've also been abundantly blessed with my family planning.  I have incredible access to resources, bloodwork, ultrasounds, medicines that have kept me healthy in pregnancy, skilled physicians to perform D&E's and C-sections under sterile conditions.  I enjoy a free society where I appreciated an Aunt who taught us NFP.  There are treatments that although I've opted against are certainly at my disposal. 

I know that those who 'have not' often have a sense of contentment that those of us who 'have' (been priveledged to grow up in the United States) will never be able to capture or fully understand.  The look of sheer joy that comes from a soccer ball will hopefully be something I never forget.  But, again it's not just material things... it's hard to articulate, but the godly people I've met in Central America and Africa have had this undeniable life attitude of "enough."  They don't constantly compare themselves, their children or their husbands to others around them.  They don't struggle with self pity.  The mothers in these situations are perhaps my greatest inspiration.  Take this woman, here:   

Uganda, BMCF, 2008

I'll never forget her story - herself, her husband, the baby she holds and all her children are HIV+.  I remember her telling me about how her husband would never consider using condoms to prevent pregnancy or transmission of disease.  They as parents know that their disease will be perpetuated in their children and there is nothing she can do to prevent it because her husband won't allow anything different.  And although she shared with me sadness for her children's condition, she didn't complain about her husband.  She simply came to our clinic in secrecy to do the little she could to protect her children from illness.  She truly seemed content in the midst of great struggle. 

Most days (most hours of the day), I'm content as well. But even the faintest hint of discontentment seems ridiculous from this perspective. God has given me more than I deserve. 

My family planning situation may not be what I imagined it would be, but it only feels unfair when I compare it to my friends who've had several successful consecutive pregnancies.  When I compare it to the woman above, it seems more than fair. 

Of course, that begs the question, why do we feel the need to compare?  

In short, I am blessed in ways I have never even acknowledged.  Yes, I continue to worry about bearing a child with a fatal trisomy.  But, never once have I worried about my children being born with an incurable infectious disease.   Furthermore, in my little corner of the world, we have seemingly infinite access to resources to help us solve our family planning problems.  Yes, it might require most of our savings to adopt a baby, but we have those savings.  Praise God.  We live in a society with a robust legal system where adoption is possible (albiet cumbersome).  Thank you, Lord.  The list of examples of abundance could go on for paragraphs but that might get tedious... 

I am growing a healthy family.

Praise God indeed. 

Dear Lord,
Today and throughout my entire life,
I've been fortunate.  Privileged.
Save me and those like me from self pity.
Jealousy should have no home in my heart. 
Help us to appreciate our abundance in new ways
each and every day that we get to enjoy your glory.
Help us move towards contentment.
Mindful of the moment,
every comfortable, blessed moment.
Help us to keep our struggles in perspective.
We trust you with this and everything.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A Pregnant Belly

I know it won't matter then.  But one of this world's great mysteries, one of the things I'd like to ask God when I get to the other side, has always been why there are so many unwanted pregnancies and yet so many families who want to be pregnant but cannot. 

In the early 1970s, one of the main points of law that our Supreme Court focused on when deciding Roe v Wade was the woman's right to privacy.  And no matter how you feel about their ruling, it's true, pregnant women have no privacy.

When I was pregnant it was fun at first, but then I found myself complaining.  I'd joke with a work friend who doesn't have kids, saying, "I just need to make myself a t-shirt with my due date and 'it's a boy' written on it, so people will stop asking me questions."  I didn't like strangers touching me.  At six months, a female patient told me I must have twins in there I was so big.  A month later a male patient told me I looked like a house.  I knew it silly to complain about, but I really couldn't go anywhere without some commentary.

How must women with unwanted pregnancies feel?  I can't even imagine. 

Oh, what I wouldn't give for a little commentary now. 

In that first pregnancy, I had a good friend who was in the process of adopting.  Her son is one day older than mine now.  I did my best back then to check in about her progress because I knew when I walked onto the ward where she worked that everyone gushed over me.  I wondered how she felt about that.  Did anyone gush over her?  Without a belly to show off, I doubted that. 

Waiting for an adoption is full of hope and wonder.  It promises new life that'll change ours in ways we can't expect.  I'm optimistic and excited. 

But waiting for an adoption is also quiet.  Man, I miss the belly.  I'm thankful I had that experience and sorrowful for those who never have such good fortune.  I didn't know I'd long for those days again.  Ladies, I'm begging you, don't take it for granted.  Those ultrasound pictures you get/choose to post online, the loving folks who are just curiously excited for you: drink it up.  Be thankful.  Be joyful.

Be kind.  Be also mindful and empathic of the men and women around you.  With or without a belly, they might have something worth hoping and gushing for too.