If I Can’t Raise Children

She was infertile, like me. Yet, somehow, someway, God opened her womb and she bore children. But then they said no more. Impossible.

The last baby, he wasn’t suppose to be. The doctors said no, so we feared something was wrong, but it wasn’t cancer or questions, it was another son.

When we got the call, I sat down and cried. Great heaving sobs. Joy unspeakable. I scrawled into my journal, “It’s almost like something deep inside me sighed and said, Oh, yes, God IS good. I knew it, but I doubted. I’ve tried so hard not to, but I did.”

Something settled hard into me that day. I looked around with clearer sight. I saw things for what they were, instead of what the enemy was whispering.

I read Isaiah 58, where God promises to those who leave behind their fake religion and petty beliefs for true fasting, true belief, that He will make them like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. They will be called Repairer of Broken Walls and Restorer of Streets with Dwelling.

Names that whisper the hope of life. 

My journal scrawled the words of truth, scraping them into my being:

So far, all the tests tell me “no” to the children I desire. Yet, still, here I sit with a little boy at my table, smiling up at me. An infant sleeping in the pack ‘n play in the bedroom. A five-year-old getting off the bus at 3. A fourteen-year-old who calls me “Ma”.

No, they are not the children I longed to give birth to, nor the orphanage of children I thought of, nor anything else I dreamed up– But they are the ones God has given to me today.

And today I say, God is good. God is faithful. 

I taped the verses from Isaiah 58 to my windowsill, and wrote down the list of my heart.

The “if I can’t raise children” list

If I can’t raise children then God must have more for me. So I will trust. 

If I can’t raise children then I will be a repairer of broken walls in other people’s lives. 

If I can’t raise children then I will bless and encourage those God places in my path.

If I can’t raise children then I will love, with a mother’s love, every child I meet. 

If I can’t raise children then I will pray restoration into the lives of each person I am around. 

I stopped fasting and praying for the fulfillment of my desires, and instead began praying for the grace to fulfill my list. Like a well-watered garden, the verses said, like a spring whose waters never fail. I tasted the wetness in my heart, the living water bubbling. Repairer of Broken Walls, the names filled me up, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. 

Today, as I read the journal entries, the verses in my Bible– underlined and highlighted, circled and dated– I breathe deep. God is good. Always, always good.

For each of us, He marks out a path. A road to travel. And He walks beside us, every step of the way. Breathing miracles into our physical lives, and more often, into our hearts. Watering the soil with His grace, His mercy, His hope, His love.

I pray that instead of being known as “barren” I might be known as Restorer and Repairer.  The one who speaks Truth into the lies the enemy is whispering.

The lies about needing marriage to be fulfilled. The lies about needing children to have worth. The lies about needing a certain income, or certain clothes, or certain jobs, or certain positions.

Take your pen, friends, and write. If I can’t get married then… If I can’t have children then… If I can’t work this job then… If I can’t be this then… 

What will you choose to be if your desires aren’t met?  Will you be a Repairer? A Restorer? Or will you sit still and listen to the enemy feeding you lies about your worth?

WordSnack

Death Sentence

There are days when we are forced to carry burdens that are larger than our strength.

I know.

I still remember the day when we learned that the child we planned on adopting was no longer available to us.

I was so broken, so lost, so confused. We had loved her, and shared smiles with her when she was told we would be her family. I would do anything to keep additional pain from her, but I couldn’t do a blooming thing to stop it. And I nearly crumbled under the weight of the sorrow.

It was a death sentence I couldn’t fight.

Paul understood this. He told the Corinthians that when he and Timothy were in Asia, they had felt they were “utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” But then he shared something startlingly glorious.

“Indeed,” he said, “we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”

In the months that followed our failed adoption, I came to this realization. This type of death sentence was necessary in my life. It was necessary to remind me that I cannot rely on my own strength. Ever. I have to rely on the One who is able to breath life into things that are dead.

I have to remember how the Lord works. He brings victory from defeat, builds mighty armies from dry bones, and through death He brings life.

Nine months later (oh, the beautiful little things our God does!) we brought our daughter home. No, it wasn’t the child we thought God was giving us. It was our daughter. The one who did not come through our will or our strength, but came through our God who knows the beginning and the end. The One who raises the dead, and breathes life into dreams that have turned to dust.

The death sentence you are facing today? May it remind you to not rely on yourself, but on Him who raises the dead.

WordSnacks

Weakness, Impossibility, and Miracles

The skies were painted pink that night. Swirls and arches of color that filled the shadows with rainbows.

We sat in the dining room and ate grilled ham with pineapple, scooped up spoonfuls of broccoli salad, and laughed until our sides ached. When we left to drive home, long after the last shades of pink had disappeared from the sky, they had pressed the book into our hands.

She smiled, “What Ann Voskamp’s writing has done for me, Angus’ has done for my husband.”

The book was titled, A Farmer’s Yearwhich seemed a perfect name. This devotional was for more than just my husband though. Each morning as I made breakfast, he would read from the living room and the stories of faith and reminders of God’s power and majesty began sinking into me.

It was preparation time, though I wasn’t aware of it in the moment. God was taking the faith-stories of this South African farmer and laying the foundations for my own life-miracles into my bones. “Faith is like potatoes,” he was known for saying, “you plant the seeds, and the plant grows, but you don’t know what it will produce until the end.” The miracle happens underground, away from sight. It’s not until the harvest that you see the fruit, and you’ll never know what God has been doing until you push through the darkness, and through your trials.

Difficulty makes for a miracle, but the condition for a great miracle is impossibility. -Angus Buchan

I started seeing the verses in Scripture. Romans 4, where we are reminded of the miraculous that God did through Abraham. It would have been a miracle for the middle-aged Sarah to conceive, but it was a great miracle for the ninety-year-old to become the mother of a nation.

And we’re reminded that Abraham is now the father of all who believe in this miraculous God:

the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.

Then in 1 Corinthians 1, where Paul is telling us that the things of this world are nothing compared to the things of God. What we see as foolishness and weakness, He will use to shame the world’s wisdom and the world’s strength. For–

God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are…

The words began settling then, years ago now, and the truth keeps sinking deeper.

This morning I went searching for these heart-verses. The ones that remind me of God’s miraculous power in the middle of my weakness. For through weakness, through the dead things in my life, through the impossibilities, the broken hope– it is through all of this that God is given a clear path to work.

And it is Him that I want. For this cross we carry, the harsh and scandalous cross, it carries pain, yes. And it carries suffering. And it carries death. But though it may be foolishness to this world, to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 

For we know that His cross also carries life. 

Everlasting, miraculous, life. 

I Corinthians 1 and Romans 4

Frayed Edges

We’re driving to church yesterday and my husband says, “I feel like I’m frayed at the edges, and any second I could unravel.”

I’m wiping away tears as I nod. Yes, this is life. You walk and follow and sometimes God leads down some pretty dark and wandering roads.

But then we’re at church, so late it’s horrible, and I’m trying to catch up with all this speaker is sharing. I understand that he was in a plane wreck, it was a miracle he survived, he has a passion for sharing the gospel. Then he says words that quiet me still.

“Remember, the verse in Psalms 16?” he asks us. And I start searching, as soon as he says the words, and sit and stare at the page in front of me.

It’s talking about God being our refuge, our safe place. And then it says,

Yahweh is my inheritance and my cup.
    You are the one who determines my destiny.
 Your boundary lines mark out pleasant places for me.
    Indeed, my inheritance is something beautiful.

And this man I’ve never met, whose name I never caught, he speaks Holy-Spirit-led-words right there. “Looking back at my accident, all I went through, I realize that God is the one who marked out the boundary lines of what could happen, and they were in pleasant places for me. And in your life, He is the one marking the boundaries.”

This morning I’m wiping tears again as I read the words. God is my refuge. And no matter how frayed along the edges I am– He is the one that marks out the boundary lines of what can happen in my life. And He is trustworthy. 

The Hebrew word translated “pleasant” also can mean “delightful”. Not perfect or wonderful or pain-free– but something that bring delight in the end. Yahweh is my inheritance, the One who determines my destiny, and the boundary lines are already in place.

Oh, thank you, Father.

I have found my home

This morning I spent reading Psalm 139.

And singing this song by Laura Woodley Osman.

I have very few words. But I pass this on to you today. There is room in Him for you.

 

You traced the lines of my fingerprints
Counted my days before I knew them
Precious thoughts for me more than the sands
And my name is written on your hands

You know the number of hairs on my head
All of my words before they are said
When I rise up and when I lay down
When I go in and when I go out

Father You have a place in Your heart for me
Jesus Your Son made me family
I am no orphan by Your Spirit I receive

I have found my home
Where you are is where I belong
A place I fit perfectly
There is room in You for me

 

Walking Blind

There are days when nothing you’ve ever learned in the past can tell you what to do in the moment.

It’s like you’re facing a new road, blindfolded.

When I was eighteen, my grandparents planned to move to Florida to live with my parents. They always came down, usually for a month or so, and during their last visit before the move, Grandma was talking to me in the living room. We were looking at my growing collection of Grace Livingston Hill books. This was one special thing we shared, our love for these old fashioned stories.

“You know why I really love them?” Grandma said. “They are relaxing stories, where everything works out, but they still remind me of truth. Like right here.”

She reached up and pulled down a book, flipped through it and pointed to a section. “These verses, they are just what I need right now. We’re planning to leave the place I grew up, raised my family. We’re moving to a new state– and it’s all a dark road. I don’t know how to navigate it. But God promises to lead us, to make the rough places smooth.”

And I will lead the blind
    in a way that they do not know,
in paths that they have not known
    I will guide them.
I will turn the darkness before them into light,
    the rough places into level ground.
These are the things I do,
    and I do not forsake them.

I went into my room after our conversation and found the verses in my Bible, right there in Isaiah, and underlined them.

And this morning I opened that old Bible and there they were, underlined.

Today we are walking a road we don’t know. Wandering down paths we can’t see the end of. Believing that the God we serve will make the rough places smooth, that He will hold our hands and lead us around every corner and curve, every phone call, every decision, every hope.

And the darkness will turn to light before us, as we take each step.

He will not forsake us.

a WordSnack from Isaiah 42

Do not worry

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Every day has enough trouble on it’s own.

Take a step today and don’t worry about what will happen tomorrow.

Breathe. Deep cleansing breaths.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Oh, Abba, give us wisdom for each step of the journey. Help us focus on today without anxious thought for tomorrow. Help our hearts and minds seek Your kingdom.

A WordSnack from Matthew 6

Our Father

IWord-Snacks: bite-sized devotionals for your hungry moments forgot my Bible when I left the house. I usually keep it in my purse, but we were in a hurry, running late.

During these moments, I often return to the simple verses I memorized years ago.

“Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…”

My father. Whose name is holy.

A father who cares intimately for His children. A  holy God who is perfect, just, righteous, loving.

It is Your will, Abba, that I pray for. Your will I hold to. Your will I trust.

Today and every day.

Infertility is a Joy?

Once upon a time I thought infertility was destroying my faith. I didn’t realize that true faith is indestructible. The part of me that was crumbling? It wasn’t, nor had it ever been, faith.

James knew this truth, which is why he instructed the church in James 1 to, “Count it all joy when you face trials of various kinds…”

Translation:

Count it joy, Natasha, when you face infertility.

Infertility is a Joy?

If you had told me this seven years ago, I would have smiled and nodded, and then cried myself to sleep that night. Because it wasn’t joyful. It was horrible.

Ten years into this journey, I look back and realize he was right. What you think you believe in the sunlight, may be very different than what you believe in the dark. When light is missing, that’s when truth is unveiled.

In the darkness of infertility, I was forced to see true.

In the darkness of infertility, every temporary and fake thing I had was stripped away.

It was just me, and a God I didn’t understand.

For awhile I shunned the trials. Joy? Ha. It was hell. But to shun the trial is to shun being remade. And gently, this father with a skittish and broken daughter– He carefully reached out with open arms, and whispered into my deaf ears. Patiently, lovingly, He taught me to hear again, to feel.

Here’s the truth: I didn’t really know if God was my father until everything collapsed. And then, with nothing left but bitterness and God calling– I found out the difference between being a believer or being lost.

For the lost, they stand in the darkness and cry, “God, what do you think you’re doing?” Yes, even the ones who claim He’s not there. Because if He is, they want to blame Him.

And the true children of God? When we’re done screaming, done fighting– we get to crawl, weeping, to His feet and say, Oh, Father. Abba. Daddy. Help. 

“For you know,” James continues, “the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” 

Once upon a time I thought infertility was destroying my faith, but now I know that it was revealing it. 

And I count it all joy.

Not pleasure. No. Not happiness. Not at all. But joy.

Joy = the settled truth that nothing is wasted when placed securely in the hands of my Father

And this knowledge, this belief, will produce steadfastness. And the full effect of this endurance, this joy?– we will lack nothing. 

Our faith will be tested, dear ones. In so many ways.

We will find out what we truly believe.

And there is an Abba, a Father, waiting to remake us– to pour joy into us, to lead us on to completion.

a WordSnack from James 1