Did you know there are seven couples in the bible who were unable to conceive? Seven. And all seven by the grace of God overcame. Amazing, isn’t it?
One couple that I can relate to the most is Abraham and Sarah. For those of you who do not know their story let me tell it to you in the EGK version; that is the Elisha Grace Kearns version. You won’t find it in the back of your church pew but it’s a good translation. Honest and raw. The story goes that Abraham was old. His animals were old. His tents and clothes were old. Everything about this man was old including his wife who was not just old, but barren. In fact, Romans 4:19 puts it this way: their bodies were as good as dead. Commentaries won’t tell you this but that basically means no amount of little blue pills were going to help him (if you know what I mean), and no amount of medications, supplements, essential oils, or kicking her legs up after “whoopie” would then empower Sarah to conceive.
By human standards and doctor’s reports, it was impossible they would ever become a family of three; at least naturally. Yet in the midst of their seemingly impossible situation, God showed up and made a promise. This is where I want to press pause on the story for just a second. Because I want to speak to you…the one who is doubting if this desire is from God because of the obstacles that you have come up against…When God gave you this all-burning, all-consuming desire to be a mother, He knew what your medical chart would read. He knew what your insurance would cover and how many pennies you would be able to rub together for the adoption you feel called to pursue. He also knew if you would have stage one or stage four endometriosis or if your husband would have a weak army of swimmers. He knew if your fallopian tubes would be blocked, as well as the imbalance of hormones that would throw off your entire reproductive system. Yet, in the midst of it all, He gave you this desire anyway. Was it to dangle a carrot in your face? No. He did it because He knew that regardless of what you would face, His grace, mercy and power could overcome it all.
This was the case with our senior citizens Abraham and Sarah. God promised Ol’ Ab at the age of 75 that he would be a father and Sarah a mother. Reading their story and inserting myself into their sandals, I can’t help but think how they must have expected it to happen within a few short months; a year at the most. But if you know their story then you also know that not just one year passed…not just five…or ten…but twenty-five years went by without seeing the fulfillment of that promise. That’s a long time to fight doubt, fear and discouragement.
I know, because while my husband and I have not been waiting 25 years, we have been living in the tension that infertility so often brings for nearly a decade. We’ve been married for 13 years—the first five years we were trying but not trying. However, for the last eight years we have been trying…and trying…and trying. I thought all of our trying had commenced on May 14th, 2012 when I saw my first ever two pink lines.They didn’t come after casual sex, but rather after spending thousands of dollars in treatments, driving hundreds of miles to see the doctor, and enduring months of painful tests to figure out I had PCOS, all while shedding a bucket of tears and eating over a pound of carpet fibers at the altar in prayer. Needless to say, it’s a day I’ll never forget. Because the second I heard my favorite nurse say the sweetest words, “You’re pregnant,” I had a million dreams. A million plans. A million ideas of how my life would look like from that moment on.
But all of those dreams, those plans, those hopes and ideas came crashing down within a matter of seconds when that same nurse, in her same tender voice say, “I’m sorry. But your pregnancy is no longer viable.” That’s a day I’ll also never forget. Because it’s the kind of news that sends you to your knees…and not in prayer…but in anger and sorrow. It’s the kind of news that makes you stink…literally…because it keeps you in bed unable to shower. It’s the kind of news that makes you tell your parents that you are pregnant but will miscarry all in the same sentence because you were still in the process of planning the perfect announcement.
It’s also the kind of news that rocks your faith to the core as it makes you question God; question his plans; question his love. It makes tears stream down your face as you stand in church realizing that you can’t sing the lyrics to the song, “Good Father” because you just aren’t sure anymore. It was a difficult season in my life. But in midst of my heartache and pain, God showed up. He, too, made a promise.
It was a Sunday afternoon while driving home from church when I had my head turned, looking out of the window. Tears streamed down my face as I began praying; asking for direction. In all honesty, I call it praying but it was more like spinning my wheels trying to plan how we could conceive again. For the sake of sounding holy, we will call it praying. Regardless, in that moment I had a thought to stop treatments. I knew immediately it wasn’t of my own because that wasn’t something I was willing to do. Therefore, as fear gripped me, another thought came flooding in. It was this tender whisper to my heart that said I would have a son…and then the name Josiah popped into my head. Before anyone thinks I am crazy, I want you to know that I thought I was crazy too. Because during that time I didn’t have a relationship with God like I do now. Sure, I was born and raised in church, but my quiet time was few and far between. I only did my Jesus Calling devotional if Good Morning America was boring; basically, I worked my devotional time around my schedule…not my schedule around my devotional time. So, who is God to speak to me? Who am I that I could hear His voice? And what kind of name was Josiah anyway? No offense to anyone who has a child by that name or a husband or uncle, it just wasn’t on my list of top 100 baby names…I had names picked out for my first kiddos…Josiah wasn’t on it…
Therefore, I did want anyone who overuses the search engine Google would do (and if you suffer with infertility then you have probably overused it a time or two… insert smirk) and I immediately looked up the meaning of the name Josiah. I had decided that if it meant anything insignificant such as “keeper of the home” or “bigfoot,” then I would chalk up this whisper spoken to my heart as nothing more than my crazy-hormontional-self talking. But as I anxiously awaited, the results began appearing, and I learned the name Josiah means ‘Jehovah healed.’ Not keeper of the home. Or bigfoot.
Immediately, I began weeping because I realized in that moment that God didn’t just want to give me baby; He wanted more for me; His best. And His best included healing. I believe His best for you also includes healing. No matter what you are going through or how bleak the present may seem, God wants to restore you. That is his heart. That is his nature. And it was on that Sunday afternoon I started to believe it. I had a fire of faith burning so deep within me it couldn’t be put out. I also had a hope that couldn’t be stolen. But how many of you know that anytime your hope is renewed the enemy will always try to steal it. He doesn’t want you to get your hopes up because miracles follow hope! This happened with me. Just days after the whisper to my heart, another whisper came to my ear. This one came from my doctor informing me that our chances of conception, even with medical treatments were not favorable. In fact, he said my eggs were the quality of an elderly woman and if by some 3% chance one of them did hop into a wheelchair and wheel itself down the fallopian tube, the odds are even less it would result in a viable pregnancy. (Those weren’t his exact words, but my interpretation.) Yet despite what he said it was, and what it seemed to be, I still held onto my hope. Because after he finished giving his stats and sympathy eyes, I stood up, shook His hand, thanked him for his time, then walked out of there like a boss. I knew I would bebop back in there within three short months waving an ultrasound picture in the air.
But 3 months go by…6 months go by…12 months go by…and no ultrasound picture to bebop back into his office with. That’s when the “nevers” and the “cant’s” and the “wont’s” started to ease into my thoughts and ooze out of my vocabulary. I’m never going to be healed. I’m never going to ovulate. I’m never going to be a mother. Or, I can’t get pregnant. I won’t get pregnant. I can’t and I won’t…and I’ll never…And it’s normal. It’s human nature. Even great faith has weak moments. Because it’s easy to have hope against all hope in the beginning, but when the promise doesn’t come in the time frame you had envisioned…when your dreams are always shattered…your plans constantly thwarted… it’s hard to keep hoping…it’s almost impossible to keep believing…and sometimes, you just need a little help to keep the faith.
My SOS flare went up in 2013 shortly after one year from hearing the promise; still with an empty womb and my faith wavering, I cried out to God for something more. Something new. It was a Friday night and while on my way to an all-women’s conference I begged him for reassurance, but I didn’t want a scripture. I also told him that I didn’t want a song to come on the radio at just the right time. Those had worked in the past; but it wouldn’t work this time. Instead I needed a burning bush…something obvious and if it wasn’t too much to ask, perhaps even a billboard sign that read: “Elisha! You will have a son and you are to name him Josiah!”
Long shot, right? I thought so too. But God knows what you need. He knows when your faith is gasping for air, and perhaps that is why you are reading this today. Your faith is gasping and you need your own billboard sign. You need your own reason to hope again. I pray you find it. Because that night I found my fresh wind. It all began as I stood on the front row of the sanctuary. The message was over and as I stood there waiting for our dismissal with the heaviness of disappointment in my heart, I held out my hands in “pretend worship.” I say pretend because at that point in the evening I just wanted to go home, put on my jammies and watch the rest of 20/20. I had hoped the speaker would have said something that would breathe life into my dying dreams but she didn’t. And so there, while standing near the front row as others came forward for ministry time, it happened. A woman whom I had never met before came and put her hands on my stomach and began praying. Immediately my eyes flew open: “Who is touching me?!” But as she began praying, I closed my eyes and thought, “I’ll go with it.” But it was when she began to pray for God to fulfill my heart’s desire and take away my burdens that tears slowly began to fall. But as she was just getting started and speaking so forcibly, she stopped. My eyes flew open and I almost said, “Don’t stop! You are doing good” when she looked at me and said with such confidence, “You will have a son!” Immediately her eyes grew the size of silver dollars as she covered her mouth before apologizing. She began to stutter and explain that she didn’t know where those words came from, and if she misspoke, she was very sorry. She went on to say that she wasn’t even sure if I wanted children…but before she uttered another word I fell to the ground and, “It’s okay. You were my burning bush.”
She didn’t know I was going through infertility. There wasn’t this blog, therefore she didn’t know about the secret promise between me and God. Only my mom (and therefore my dad), husband and cat knew about it.
It’s been 7 years since my burning bush moment, and 8 since the promise was first spoken, and there still hasn’t been an ultrasound picture. If anything, my hormones have gotten worse and my ol’ lady eggs have gotten older. Most people in my situation would have given up by now. But despite what it is, and what it seems to be, I still have hope.
And it’s because of Ol’ Ab.
You see, I never told you why his story was my favorite. Most people would assume it is because he had a promise and I have a promise, therefore we can relate. But that’s not it at all. With or without the promise, I would still be able to see the word ‘possible’ tucked away within the ‘impossible’ and it’s because he taught me how. He was a man that could look at the reality of a situation and say, “It is what it is, but it’s not what it seems.”
It is impossible, yet it’s not impossible.
It is too late, yet it’s not too late.
The conditions of my body aren’t perfect, yet they are.
But the question is how. I believe the answer is found in Romans 4:20; it says that he was strengthened in his faith during that 25-year-long waiting period by giving Glory to God. For years, I would read this and assume that Abraham walked around his old tent wearing his old clothes while singing the old hymn, “Glory, Glory Hallelujah…Glory, Glory Hallelujah!” And you know? He might have. He was Father Abraham. But if you dig deeper into this scripture passage you will find that the word Glory is translated to the Hebrew word KABOD, which means weight. Abraham gave weight to God. He didn’t focus on his weakness or the difficulty of the situation. If he had, then he would have given up in despair. Instead, He focused on the faithfulness and power of God to change His circumstances. During the wait, he put his weight in God.
Real talk? Many of us, including myself at times, give too much weight to the wrong things. We give too much weight to the facts. Too much weight to our past failures and disappointments. Too much weight to our feelings. And when do this, we weigh ourselves down and lose our hope. And maybe that is you. If so, it’s time to shift your weight by shifting your focus; asking yourself, is the way I see it the way it really is?”
Because His body was as good as dead, but was it dead?
Your situation seems impossible, but is it impossible?
It appears it’s too late, but is it too late?
I want to make an important distinction because this isn’t about denying our reality and living in a state of delusion. Abraham never denied that his body was worthless. There is no doubt in my mind that he often looked around at his situation and said, “it is what it is” … he might have even looked across the tent at his wife, Sarah, and said, “it was what it was” … But while Abraham faced the facts, he also kept the faith. In other words, he stood in the middle. He wasn’t delusional…yet he also didn’t fall into the pit of despair. Instead he stood firmly in the gap…the gap between what it is and what it seems. Faith is what bridges that gap. It shows the hope within a barren womb. The word possible inside every impossibility. The power of God in the face of a problem.
Sweet friend, whatever you are facing today, have hope that it’s not the end. There is more to what you can see. I wish my Grandma were here to pat you on your knee and tell you those words just as she told them to me several years ago before she passed away. It was 2012, right before my first fertility treatment. My husband and I rented a house from her that was located directly in her backyard. As the nosey neighbor that she was she always knew of our coming and going. This meant that on the eve of our embryo transfer when we would need to travel and stay overnight, she would take notice. My mom suggested that I tell her we would be gone…and being the paranoid religious person I was back then I didn’t want to even tell a “white lie” and have God punish me by not allowing me to get pregnant (eye roll…I know, irrational thought). And so, one afternoon I walked over to her house and together we sat on her front porch as I told her as much as I could about infertility and science; not expecting a 93-year-old woman to understand. Once I was finished, I took a deep breath and expected the worst. After all, at this point she was running her fingers down the front seams of her polyester pants while rocking back and forth in her stationary chair. But, to my surprise she didn’t tell me all the things I expected to hear; you know, how I need to stop playing God or maybe “it’s just not meant to be.” Instead, she went on to tell me her gut-wrenching , yet heartfelt story.
I’m not sure how I never put 2 and 2 together but my Uncle Ronnie was 20 years older than my mom. And so, while there wasn’t a term for secondary infertility in the 1940s, looking back that’s what it was. She went on to say that shortly after he was born my Grandad went to war, and when he returned, they tried for baby #2; but baby #2 never game. Even despite the tests and limited procedures which were offered to her during that time, she never could conceive. As a result, she lost hope and gave up. However, in her mid-40s and while going through menopause she surprisingly became pregnant. With tears in her eyes she told me that she was so angry at God. “Why now?!” she would scream. But then feel shame cover her as this was an answer to a once desperate prayer. She says looking back, it all makes sense.
You see, my Uncle Ronnie had passed away decades earlier from diabetes; my Grandad was also gone. This left only my mother to care for her. She went on to say that if she would have conceived her when she wanted then my mom would be in her 70’s trying to care for her, a woman in her 90s. About that time my Grandma looked over at me and said, “Your mom is my angel—a true gift from God. He knew what He was doing when He gave me a child at such a late age in life.” She then looked down, ran her fingers along the seams of her polyester pants once more before finally looking back over at me and saying, “I couldn’t understand God’s timing then, but I can see it now. He doesn’t put expiration dates on our dreams, nor do the conditions of our bodies need to be perfect.” Together we sat in silence before I got up to leave. Looking back to that afternoon, I realize that while she didn’t say it, she said it: It is what it is, but it’s not what it seems.
Sweet friend, my situation might look impossible. His promises might appear to be broken. And the same might appear to be true for you too. But learn from Ol’ Ab. Remember the story of my Grandma. Then hold tight. For where there is hope, there is faith; and where there is faith, there are miracles.
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