It has been a long year. Back in May I shared that we began the process of embryo adoption with the National Embryo Donation Center in Knoxville, TN. On November 15, we travelled to Knoxville and I received an amazing birthday present, one I thought for so long impossible – I became a mom. Just these last few weeks have been nerve-wracking with many emotional highs and lows, joys and fears. And a long path still lies before us, full of unknowns. But the Lord knows, He hears us and He cares for us. And as we pray, we pray that above all else God would be glorified through this journey.
Below is Ben’s summary of the process to date. We appreciate all your prayers. Continue reading
After finishing C. S. Lewis’ autobiography, I was interested in reading more of his personal writings. I decided to next read A Grief Observed by Lewis, counting it as “a book written in the twentieth century” for the reading challenge.
C. S. Lewis married his wife, Joy, later in life and they enjoyed a profound, passionate marriage. Her death from cancer just four years after their union left him devastated. To cope, he began writing his thoughts in little notebooks he found around his home, which were compiled and published as A Grief Observed. It is an incredibly raw and honest book in which Lewis candidly shares his anger and doubts toward God in the midst of his grief. He was one of the great Christian apologists and academic minds of the twentieth century and a man that came to faith through logic and reason, yet even he struggled to reconcile what he believed about God with the painful loss of his wife. Lewis does not reach some amazing revelation through his journaling that resolves God’s goodness with the existence of grief in this world, but he does begin to emerge from the despair into a faith that is exactly that – belief without all the answers.
Though not having experienced the loss of my spouse, I found some of Lewis’ thoughts the same as my own in times of grief. It is a comfort to see that such a giant of the Christian faith struggled with the same things as me – a great reminder that no man is great on his own, we are all weak vessels of a mighty God who works through us. A Grief Observed is a fascinating peek inside the heart and mind of such an influential man. Not only is it a reassurance that those who have experienced loss are not alone in their struggle, but it is a doorway to empathy and understanding for those unfamiliar with sorrow and loss.
A friend of mine loaned me The Hidden Smile of God: The Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd by John Piper. I fit it into the reading challenge category of “a book by or about a missionary.” I’ve never been interested much in biographies, but another friend says you can learn a lot by reading about holy people. This was a good book to ease into that genre.
Piper provides three mini-biographies of men who suffered immensely during their lives and whom God used greatly for His Kingdom. John Bunyan spent twelve years in prison when he could have been freed at any time by merely promising not to preach anymore. During his imprisonment, he wrote many works as a means to encourage his church as they also suffered for their faith. William Cowper (pronounced “Cooper”) suffered debilitating depression which led him to a period of commitment to an asylum and several suicidal attempts. During his difficult life he wrote some of the most beloved hymns of the church, such as “God Moves in Mysterious Ways,” “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood,” “Heal Us, Emmanuel,” and “Sometimes a Light Suprises.” David Brainerd served as a lonely missionary to the Indians in the wilderness for only three years while he slowly deteriorated from tuberculosis. His journal documenting his few short years of ministry has influenced countless Christians with regards to missions – sending them into the field or encouraging them there.
Piper uses these men as examples of perseverance in hardship: Bunyan shows how we must trust and rest in God’s sovereignty over our lives by clinging to His Word. Cowper teaches us that we must doubt our despair and cling instead to the truth of God’s character. Brainerd teaches how soul-saving, eternal work outweighs the greatest physical trials. These men did not know how God would use them, even centuries later, and yet their influence is beyond measure. We may not know why we face certain difficulties, but we must never doubt that God is working through our circumstances. I found The Hidden Smile of God an encouraging read and it whet my appetite to know more about these men as well as others that God has used in the life of His church.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
– “God Moves in a Mysterious Way,” William Cowper
For the reading challenge category “a book about suffering” I read Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression by Zack Eswine.
Charles Spurgeon is a well-known and highly-regarded Baptist preacher from the 19th-century who, in addition to penning a large and influential body of work, also struggled with depression. Eswine delves into depression by drawing from the wisdom of Spurgeon’s own writings on the topic and connecting this to biblical truths. First, he addresses the various causes of such a complex affliction – circumstantial, biological, and spiritual, recognizing that a person is likely affected by a combination of these. Eswine does not shy away from the difficulties involved with depression and looks at many practical helps – from the importance of regular Scripture meditation and prayer, to tangible helps for the day to day, to the allure and danger of suicide. Eswine deals with the affliction of depression in a deeply empathetic way, acknowledging the validity of the suffering caused by this burden. He also writes in a way beneficial to those not suffering from depression but wanting to understand it and someone who struggles with it better.
The mind can descend far lower than the body, for in it there are bottomless pits. The flesh can bear only a certain number of wounds and no more, but the soul can bleed in ten thousand ways, and die over and over again each hour.
– Charles Spurgeon, quoted in Spurgeon’s Sorrows
A blog that I enjoy called The Carry Camp did a post this week for those dealing with infertility or miscarriage about how to get through Mother’s Day. In response to a reader’s question, the author offers ways to cope with this difficult day ranging from escaping through pampering and distraction to processing the grief and working towards healing. I greatly appreciate the acknowledgment that sadness is ok and the encouragement to ask loved ones to pray for you and be with you throughout the day. These are very helpful reminders as Sunday approaches.
I read a short little novel the other day called A World Lost by Wendell Berry. Following the murder of the narrator’s beloved uncle, he stands outside the killer’s jail cell, powerless to do anything to rectify the situation. He reflects that “for a long time there was nothing to be done but stand there in the large silence and the falling light, and know and know the thing we knew.” What he knew was tragedy, inexpressible grief and loss of a loved one. Even as he stood facing the cause of his heartache, there was nothing he could do but acknowledge that the pain was there and that the world had suddenly changed. Continue reading
Saturday my husband preached the funeral of a beloved church member that unexpectedly passed last week. Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of Ben’s brother many years ago. This coming Saturday we will attend another funeral for another saint. The past couple weeks have been a particularly difficult time of mourning for me in the midst of our infertility journey.
It feels as if grief is everywhere, pressing in on all sides. Some fresh sorrow, some old, yet all the same – engulfing, unrelenting. Continue reading
Our pursuit of children began, as it does for so many couples, with a decision to go off birth control. A couple years passed by and we found ourselves faced with questions we never imagined we’d have to consider: Which infertility tests did we want me to have? Which tests did we want Ben to have? Did we want to begin treatment without a diagnosis? Which treatment facility did we want to go to for further evaluation? Did we want me to undergo more invasive testing and treatment? How would we pay for treatment not covered by insurance? With which of the different types of assisted reproductive technology were we morally comfortable? Continue reading
I have had a desire for children for as long as I can remember, hoping that my lot in life would be as a mother. Over the course of the past few years, though, I have come to terms with the fact that it may never happen. One difficult aspect of this situation is that my longing for children does not go away just because it has not been fulfilled. On top of that, discerning how to handle persistent unfulfilled desires can be confusing and complicated. My husband and I have been told that as long as we have the desire for children, we can—we must, even—pursue its satisfaction, and we can rightfully expect God to deliver. Doesn’t Scripture say as much?
“Delight yourself in the Lord,
and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
I expected the Christian life to be so different than what I have found. God tells us to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16), and I have prayed to such an end without ever giving it a second thought. I must have imagined that God would make me more like Christ just by flipping a switch. One morning I would wake up and oh! I wouldn’t be selfish anymore. Another morning down the road, and wow! my envy would be gone. And so my sanctification would continue for the rest of my years on earth. I would grow gray and holy, eventually finding rest from the struggle against sin, and then seamlessly slide from this world into glory. Continue reading