Hi friends! This weekend, I’m excited to announce I’m launching a NEW blog and Facebook page with my friend, Diana. I met Diana when I first started coming to Cherokee Hills in 2012. While our stories are different, we have both dealt with infertility struggles. And we have both felt God’s leading to create a welcoming place for others with similar struggles to share the lessons we’ve learned and provide encouragement.
Waiting to become a mom is hard. It’s weighty, cumbersome, and lonesome. Our mission is to help “share the weight of waiting.”
“Infertility” has many different faces: unexplained infertility, male infertility, PCOS, endometriosis, secondary infertility, miscarriages, among others. Spanning out from those struggling with infertility is the network of family, friends, coworkers, pastors, employers, and other loved ones of those walking this strange road. If you are in that camp, you have probably wondered a time or two how to best support these special people in your life without appearing insensitive, either by saying far too much, or far too little. We will dive into all these topics and more on the Facebook page and blog
If you’ve been following Kurtis and I’s fertility journey, I’ll be continuing our story exclusively on the new page and blog, leaving this blog to focus on other regular content.
In the midst of some achingly unanswered prayers, this time of year always reminds me of a very specific answered prayer. Like, I know exactly what day I prayed it, and I can tell you exactly when it was answered.
Prayer doesn’t always happen like that, does it? Often we are called to patiently wait outside a closed door for a very long time. Or we are called to walk through doors we never imagined. But other times, as we pray, the Lord is standing right behind us, already pushing open the door we are supposed to walk through next. That was the case for me on this day, six years ago.
A Simple But Bold Prayer
Granted, this was NOT the first time I had prayed about or for my future husband. I think my earliest recorded prayer was from age 11 or so. And so here I was again, praying about marriage and my future husband. My senior year in college was just a few weeks away, and I had plans to return to teaching dance in the fall. But I wanted to ask God this one thing…
There was no guy on my radar at the time, no one I was interested in. I was looking at finishing school in just nine short months. In my mind, it was a reasonable request that I could at least meet the man who I would marry and begin to build a friendship that would eventually turn into something more. If that still wasn’t in God’s timing for this year, then OK. At least I’d asked, right?
Prayer for the Future
So on July 19, 2011, God and I had a heart-to-heart. This simple but bold request was written on a piece of wood from an evergreen sermon at my old church. It represents “staking your claim” in God’s promises and is a visual representation of what you have asked God for in faith. Like I said, I had prayed similar prayers many a time. More journal entries than I care to admit to were spent examining the intricacies of the friendships I had with guys. But this time, it just felt different.
About two weeks from that day, my friend Claire told me about “this guy” from her church. (Another crazy story) Then on August 18, 2011, (ONE MONTH LATER) I met Kurtis Hanni for the first time. One month from that first meeting, we were dating. Nine months later, we got engaged.Then six months later, we got married.
So here I am, six years down the road from that prayer, married to the most loving, intelligent, God-fearing, funny, handsome man I have ever met.
I share this because I am always encouraged when I hear or read about God answering prayers and working in the lives of fellow believers. I also share this to encourage myself when other prayers of ours have rolled over into “years” category of waiting for an answer.
Even though other prayers haven’t been answered how or when I thought they should be, I need only turn my head and look at my husband. God answered that prayer far beyond what I could imagine in ways that I didn’t expect. Don’t you think he can do that again? My story isn’t a formula or a blueprint, but yet another piece of unique evidence of a faithful God. And he is so very faithful.
..no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.
One of the blessings (yes, blessings) that has come through this painful fertility journey is deepened relationships with friends, especially those who are walking a similar journey into the unknown of fertility struggles.
One of those friends that I am so grateful for is Diana. Diana and her husband are walking their own fertility journey and through the past few years, Diana has been my go-to gal, the gal who, if she asks me how I’m doing, I can say “I’m not OK,” and she’ll nod knowingly. No other words are needed.
Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself… – C.S. Lewis
Diana was kind enough to share a few thoughts of her own on this journey. As adults, we may not be scared about monsters hiding under our beds, but the “unknowns” of the future lurking in the shadows can make us catch our breath all the same.
Afraid of the unknown
Worrying can come from the “what if” statements or thoughts we dwell on: “What if my car breaks down?” “What if I lose my job?” “What if my house gets broken into?” Most of these statements and thoughts are legitimate and realistic circumstances that could really happen, so we have the right to worry about them, right? No!
The Bible clearly states, “Therefore, don’t worry about tomorrow because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of it’s own.” All after describing how God has taken care of you, and the birds, and the lilies. And it’s true! No matter where you are, what you’ve done, and where you’ve been, God has always been there with you.
All of the hard circumstances that we’ve been in have helped shape the people we are today, whether we have already been through them or are still experiencing hard times. In fact, God promises that we will experience hard times and tribulations in this life (John 16:33). Trouble, trials, hard times, tribulations, and yes, the unknown, are all apart of living in a fallen world.
A time for everything, even the unknowns
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 describes a time for everything. This is my grandmother’s favorite verse, probably because she has lived life and seen that all of these things that Ecclesiastes lists have happened in life. There is a time in our life for all of these emotions, actions, and reactions. BUT through all of these circumstances we must remain faithful to our Lord (John 15:4, John 15:9) and we must find joy in those circumstances (James 1:2).
“Joy?” you say. “Girl, do you know what I’ve been through?” No…I don’t, but God does, and even if you think you are in the most miserable situation in life you could possibly be in, do you know how long you will be there?
Do you know how much longer you will be at your miserable job? Live on the tightest budget ever? Wait on becoming parents? Struggle with disease? The truth is, we don’t know.
Why be bitter?
In most cases, if you are struggling with these or any tough life situation you do not know how much longer you will have to go through this life situation you are in. So how long are you stubbornly going to remain bitter and upset and mad at life? A month, a year, three years, six years? And while we are talking about time….God doesn’t promise us tomorrow. So you could very well die as a bitter person, if you never choose to look for the joy in life.
Usually this is hard to start, but once you do start looking for the joy in life it’s hard to stop!
Beautiful weather Peaceful and smooth ride to work A job Your house Reliable transportation Ability to pay bills
The things you overlook on a day to day basis are blessings that are passing you by if you choose to only focus on the bad parts of life. Even though we are unsure of the unknown we should remain faithful that God has a plan (Jeremiah 29:11) and find joy in all circumstances.
I do know that waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts. Its easy to talk oneself into a decision that has no permanence – easier sometimes than to wait patiently. – Elisabeth Elliot
Today’s post is going to be super practical. I’m sharing six simple infertility activities couples or individuals can occupy themselves with when the journey gets rough.
Create a photo book/scrapbook of a past season of life
Over the past year, I’ve spent quite a bit of time organizing photos and creating photo books of my college years, Kurtis’ and I’s dating/engagement season, our honeymoon, and years 1-4 of marriage. To look back at all the Lord has done and how he carried us through; the friendships he’s blessed us with, the memories we’ve already made, is incredibly healing. (The act of being grateful is always healing.) Also, when in the midst of a messy, undone season, it’s encouraging to look back on a season that is finished, to see God’s hand through beginning to end.
Adopt a pet
I realize this isn’t a feasible infertility activity for everyone, and truthfully I didn’t see us taking on the responsibility for a pet so soon. But after an incredibly difficult week in October, I reached a breaking point. I sent Kurtis links to several dogs at local shelters and was basically like, “Pick one, because we’re getting a dog this week.”
Podrick has turned our hearts upside down for the better, and while our house may be a little dirtier than before, it’s totally worth it. It’s been good for Kurtis and I to work together as a team for Podrick, train him, and take care of him. Also he’s very handsome. So handsome, right? He’s my little buddy, and he’s been a balm to my soul.
What do I mean by touchstones? I mean anything that can bring your focus back to the Lord and his faithfulness, and your hopes for the future. It will look different for different people. For me, I’ve created a hope wall, integrating two important symbols for one theme: hope and anchors.
I have a “hope” box with the notes and cards people have sent us throughout this journey, an ornament and a onesie. I also have a journal that I started this year that will be for my future child. Each week I jot down a short entry. I have special playlist on my phone called “Trust” because God has used each of the songs on there to encourage me at different points throughout the last three years and remind me where I’ve placed my trust.
Keep in mind I didn’t do all of these infertility activities after one year of trying. I’ve been slow to accumulate that which is truly meaningful on this journey. As the spirit has led me, I’ve put together these items. So I would encourage you to do the same: follow the spirit’s guidance, not because there’s pressure to do or buy something.
One of the most important infertility activities you can do is seek community. I hope that you have a circle of support with friends walking the same journey. Whether through online support groups or with friends you see on a weekly basis, community is SO IMPORTANT. Infertility is incredibly isolating and unchecked, can foster feelings of jealousy, bitterness, inferiority, and depression. But when buoyed by healthful loving community, these dark specters aren’t as likely to stick around.
If you don’t have community, start by asking your pastor or small group leader if they know of other couples who are struggling with infertility. It may also be time to open up about your own struggles, because that in turn gives others encouragement to do the same, and you might find some unlikely friends on your journey.
Develop creative outlets
Whether it’s gardening, painting, cooking, knitting, selling a product, or starting a business, begin to explore some creative ventures you can invest yourself in. In this season of not being able to get pregnant and bear life, it’s been healing to still produce through my work as a writer (and previously as a dance teacher). I’ve always had some creative outlet, whether it be dance or writing, and they’ve been a lifeline to remind myself that I am not barren. Beautiful words and projects have been conceived in me and I’ve given birth to some of them, and others are not yet due. It may not be the fruit that I want to be bearing right now, but it is the fruit God has allowed me to bear, and I have to believe that’s for good reason.
At the end of the day, it may be in your best interest to seek professional counseling. A counselor can provide insight and direction for your thoughts without the bias of knowing you, competing with you, or getting tired of you. All of those things can cloud otherwise helpful dialogue. There’s no shame in treating our minds and souls with respect by getting the help we need. As our bodies undergo so much, our minds need help too.
Other infertility activity resources*
Along our infertility journey, I’m always on the lookout for books, blogs, and other resources that can bring encouragement, direct my thoughts, and otherwise give voice to feelings and emotions that I can’t otherwise. Here are some of my favorites