Remember Not Every Woman is “Happy” on Mother’s Day

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My daughter Kim and I were just on the phone making Mother’s Day plans. As we chatted about what we would do to celebrate her being the mother of my three darling grandchildren, and me being Kim’s mom . . . my mind wandered back to a Mother’s Day twelve years ago that wasn’t so happy for Kim.

In Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? A Companion Guide for Couples on the Infertility Journey, Kim shares a painful and heartbreaking Mother’s Day:

Dear God,

It’s almost Mother’s Day and I don’t know if I can handle seeing all those happy moms at church and brunch. I’m trying to focus on my mom and not think about how I’m missing out on being a mommy on yet another Mother’s Day. This year is especially hard since we’ve been trying to be parents for so long and so hard, only to be repeatedly disappointed. At the store looking for a card for my mom, I see the cute cards at the end of the aisle “To Mommy”…oh God, I wish I were someone’s mommy! I look away and continue focusing at the task ahead, getting my mom and mothers-in-law their cards.

Today’s the day, it’s Mother’s Day. I don’t think I can bear it. It’s just begun and already I want this day over. I pull myself out of bed and get ready for church. I’m not looking forward to the sermon about children being a blessing and honoring mothers. God, help me focus on my mom.

We met my parents at church and I put on my happy face, when inside I was crying watching all the mothers with big smiles dressed in pretty spring dresses and children running all around. This was a day of celebration and I just wanted to go back to bed. The pastor started the message with asking all the mothers to stand up. Hundreds of women stood and everyone applauded. I couldn’t take it any longer and sat slouched over in my seat quietly crying. Toby put his arm around me and my mom held my hand, but nothing took away the pain. I barely heard the rest of the message.

After brunch, I came home, collapsed on my bed, and cried myself to sleep where I remained the rest of the day. God, please don’t make me go through another Mother’s Day with this hole in my heart. I want to stand up in church with all those other mothers beaming from ear to ear and have everyone applaud me. God, please let me stand up next year.

Some of you identify with Kim’s cry out to God.

“I hate Mother’s Day!” admitted a dear friend longing for a baby. “You know that women struggling with infertility don’t go to church on Mother’s Day.” Kris agrees, “I was that mom-in-waiting for sixteen years. I stayed away from baby showers, church, and pregnant friends. I didn’t stop praying, but it was the worse pain.”

Lisa concurs, “I am guilty of having skipped church on Mother’s Day a few years before we adopted my son.”

Someone You Know is Struggling with Infertility

Mother’s Day is especially hard for mommies-in-waiting, but for most of these women, every day is hard. With 1 in 6 couples experiencing infertility, you are, or know, a woman experiencing this heartache. Often we don’t know what to say to them, so we say nothing, or maybe unintentionally say something that makes them feel worse. Kris says, “We cannot ignore them [women longing for a child]. I know how hard it was for people to talk to me. But I would have loved it if they did.”

Avoidance only adds to these hurting women’s feelings of isolation and loneliness. When you don’t know what to say or do these suggestions might help: “Top Fifteen Things Not to Say or Do and to Say or Do to Someone Experiencing Infertility.”

It breaks my heart to hear that many women say the one place they feel the loneliest is in the church. Doesn’t that break your heart too? Jesus said he came for the sick, and that includes heartsick. The church should be a safe place for the hurting, not a place where they feel shunned or like outcasts.

How does your church comfort mommies-in-waiting on Mother’s Day … and every day?

Mothers of Prodigals

Mothers of prodigals are another group of women who dread Mother’s Day. They may not know where their child is, or know all too well where he or she is, and that breaks a mother’s heart and the heart of God. These moms need comforting, a hug, and assurance that this day is for them too.

Mothers Who Have Lost a Child

A mother who has lost a child, lives with that grief every day, but Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of the precious child they lost. I can’t imagine that pain, but I watched the sadness in my Granny Reed’s eyes that was always there over the murder of my father, her beloved son, a week before his 37th birthday. She had six other living children who she loved dearly, but there was always pain for the one she lost.

Women Who Have Lost Their Mother

Mother’s Day is about celebrating your mom, but there’s a void and ache that never goes away when your mom is no longer living, and Mother’s Day becomes a sad reminder of all the years you celebrated her on Mother’s Day. It can also be a joyous time of remembering, but still there’s no one to buy a card for, give a hug to, and a special gift for the years she devoted to raising you. Even after you become a mom yourself and your children are celebrating you, there’s a generational celebration as you are still somebody’s little girl, just all grown up.

I hope that you will not ignore but love on the mommies-in-waiting, the moms of prodigals, or the moms who have lost a child or their own mom, who may need a shoulder to cry on . . . a prayer . . . an understanding hug this Mother’s Day.

If you’ve been where they’re at, mentor them like only someone who has been in their shoes can. If you haven’t been in their shoes, let them know you can’t possibly understand, but you’re there for them and God is too!

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”—1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)

Lindsey Bell shared another helpful blog post on my website 6 Thing Not to Say to Someone Who is Hurting (And What to Say Instead)

If you received this blog by email, leave a comment here.

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6 Things NOT to Say When Someone is Hurting (And What to Say Instead)

6 Things NOT to Say When Someone Is Hurting

My friend, fellow author and a The MOM Initiative mentor mom, Lindsey Bell, has a new book, Unbeaten, that I wanted to share with you this week. In today’s blog post, Lindsey shares about something I write about also in both Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer (The-Top-Thirteen-Things-to-Do-or-Say to Someone with Breast Cancer) and Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? (The Top Fifteen Things Not to Say or Do to Someone Experiencing Infertility). It’s hard to know what to say, or not say, to someone who is in deep emotional or physical pain and so often we say something that hurts rather than helps. We’ve all been there: had something hurtful said to us, or said the wrong thing to someone else.

6 Things NOT to Say When Someone is Hurting (And What to Say Instead)

By Lindsey Bell

One of the most important aspects of mentoring is ministering to someone who is going through a hard time.

Unfortunately, there is often confusion as to what is best to say when someone is hurting.

We want to encourage people, not make their pain worse, but we don’t always know what to say.

After each of my four consecutive miscarriages, and during the years of waiting, testing, and grieving, people tried to say things to me that would comfort my broken heart. They meant well, just as most people do when they attempt to comfort someone who is hurting.

Unfortunately, many of their well-intention words did more harm than good.

Here are a few things you should never say to someone who is hurting (and a few ideas of things you can say instead).

  1. You just need to trust God (or God’s timing or God’s plan, etc.).

While this might be true, it’s not a helpful thing to hear right after a loss or while the pain is still fresh.

Instead, say, “I’m so sorry.”

And that’s it. You don’t have to offer answers to someone going through a hard time.

  1. There’s a reason for everything.

Really? Are you sure?

I guess this might be true. There probably is a reason for everything, but maybe that reason is simply that life stinks sometimes. Maybe that reason is that bad things happen.

Maybe there isn’t some theological, deep reason that God allowed this trial into their life. It’s possible, of course, there is a deeper reason. Maybe God is planning to use this situation in some really huge way.

But isn’t it also possible that this bad thing happened simply because it happened…not because it was a part of some huge plan?

Instead, say, “This stinks.”

  1. At least you have….

At least you have another child…. At least you had X number of years with him. At least you have …

I think the reason people say this is because they want the person who is hurting to focus on his or her blessings.

And though it’s certainly helpful to count your blessings, there’s also a time and place for grief. People need to grieve, and pointing out the positives in their situation does not help them grieve.

Having one child does not make the loss of another any easier to swallow. (It might serve as a distraction, but it doesn’t negate the loss of the other child).

A loss is a loss, so it’s better not to minimize that loss by bringing up the positives in the situation.

Instead say, “Can I pray for you right now?”

And then actually do it. Right then. Right there.

  1. Next time will be different (or God is going to fix this or something similar).

I can’t count the number of times people told me this. After our first miscarriage, they told me our next pregnancy would be different. It wasn’t. After our second miscarriage, they said it again. It wasn’t.

The truth is, we don’t know what the future holds, so it’s better not to pretend that we do.

Instead, say, “I’m going to the grocery store. What can I pick up for you?” Or, “I’m running by Sonic. What kind of drink would you like?”  

People mean well when they say, “Let me know if I can do anything.” But most likely, people won’t take them up on their offer. Instead of offering general assistance, offer to do something specific.

  1. I know how you feel.

No, no, you don’t. Even if you have gone through something very similar, it’s not exactly the same because you are not the same person.

No two pains are exactly the same.

Instead, say, “There are no words.”

Because really, there aren’t. There are no words that will instantly fix their situation.

  1. God won’t ever give us more than we can handle.

This statement bothers me for two reasons.

First, is makes it sound like God is the one handing out the painful situations. God allows death, but I don’t think he “gives” it to us.

Secondly, I’ve never seen this idea in Scripture anywhere. In fact, I’ve seen many examples of the opposite.

I’ve seen God allowing really hard things into peoples’ lives so they will learn to trust in Him.

Instead, say NOTHING. Just be there.

What other things would you add to this list?

If you received this post by email, leave a comment here.

This post is part of Lindsey’s blog tour to celebrate her new Bible study and devotional, Unbeaten: How Biblical Heroes Rose Above Their Pain (and you can too).

To celebrate her book, she’s giving away a HUGE bundle of books! Leave a comment on this post to be entered to win. You can get more entries by commenting on other blogs in the tour as well. Get a full list of participating blogs here: www.lindseymbell.com/unbeaten-is-here-win-this-huge-bundle-of-books.

Unbeaten Cover

About Unbeaten:

Why does life have to be so hard? If you’ve ever asked this question, you’re not alone. Difficult times often leave Christians searching the Bible for answers to some of life’s most difficult questions.

Questions like:

Does God hear me when I pray?

Why isn’t He doing anything?

Does He even care?

In Unbeaten: How Biblical Heroes Rose Above Their Pain (and you can too), Lindsey Bell walks with readers through the stories of men and women in the Bible who went through difficult situations. In this 10-week Bible study and devotional, she addresses many of these questions and helps readers learn how they too can be unbeaten.

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About Lindsey Bell:

Lindsey Bell is the author of the Bible study and devotional, Unbeaten, and of the parenting devotional, Searching for Sanity. She’s a stay-at-home mother of two silly boys, a minister’s wife, an avid reader, and a lover of all things chocolate. Lindsey writes weekly at www.lindseymbell.com about faith, family, and learning to love the life she’s been given.

Expecting the Unexpected at Christmas

 

Our guest post is from author/speaker Julie Sanders. Julie and I are Mentor Moms on The MOM Initiative team, and today Julie talks about the unexpected happenings that each Christmas brings to all of us, starting with Mary, the mother of Jesus. In my Bible study Face-to-Face with Elizabeth and Mary, I talk about how Elizabeth, who was expectant with John the Baptist, mentored Mary through those first three months after her visit from the angel Gabriel telling her she would be the mother of Jesus.

I also know how difficult this season can be for women with an expectation of being mothers this Christmas season. In Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?, my daughter Kim describes the worse Christmas of her life when all three of her siblings had children and she was still struggling with infertility. She had plans and expectations of being a mother that Christmas, but her arms were empty. Little did she know that the New Year would bring her two babies within nine months!

If you’re going to be around friends or family who are struggling with infertility and worried you might say the wrong thing or don’t know what to say, the blog post I wrote during National Infertility week will help you: “Hug an Infertile Couple This Week.”

If you’re the infertile couple, dreading the holidays, the post 10 Ways to Survive the Holidays When You’re Infertile is for you.

“Mary” by Julie Sanders

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Her betrothal was still fresh when her expectations dissolved in the light of the angel’s arrival. To be old enough to be promised was to be mature enough to bear a child. Before Mary even had time to adjust to changes in her own body or warm up to the name “Joseph,” everything she anticipated fell away. There would be no joyous gathering of girlhood friends, envious of her new status. None of the other girls wanted to swell with a child before uniting with a husband.

When what we expect falls apart, it’s easy to feel paralyzed. At the first sign of a change, Mary was troubled and frightened. She had questions. Before she had time to learn the physical ways of womanhood or enjoy intimacy with a man, her body would be taken over for purposes bigger than she could conceive.

“And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. ‘”(Luke 1:30)

No experience has the power to stir a woman’s hopes like that of becoming a mother. Whether she enters in through adoption, infertility, or traditional pregnancy, a mother learns to sacrifice her expectations for the gift of raising a child. Instead of being paralyzed by the sudden uncertainty motherhood brings, confidence can be found in knowing, “There will never be a time when our children are out of God’s sight or apart from His presence,” (from EXPECTANT, Calling the Shots). Every journey is unique, but every heart is expectant.

Most of us have plans for this Christmas season. No one anticipates interruptions like job loss or a life lost. Such unexpected events never appear on our wish list. We rarely address the severity of suffering in our Advent readings. But in the erasing of our expectations and the dissolving of our decisions comes God’s opportunities to display His grand plan. He takes our hand, leading us to unwelcoming inns, simple stable accommodations, and to exile in Egypt. Our Father lets us glimpse the greater glory found when life encircles the Prince of Peace.

Motherhood has a way of causing our expectations to fall away. From the moment young Mary received her angelic message, nothing unfolded as she imagined, but she found the greater glory in God’s greater plan. “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19)

Let’s agree that this Christmas will probably not be according to our plans–hold loosely to your expectations. Let’s look for God’s greater glory with hearts that are expectant.

Father God,

I want to treasure Your actions in my life. I want to glimpse the glory of being part of Your story. Help me to hold to my expectations loosely and to welcome your plans for me.

 Cropped Courtyard

 

Julie lives where tea is sweet and grits are cheesy. She and her husband of 25 years have two nearly grown kids. EXPECTANT: 40 Devotions for New and Expectant Moms was born when God brought a group of young couples into their lives, just as they began to long to grow their families. Julie loves to teach God’s word to women in her hometown and across the globe; she is passionate about fighting human trafficking and helping women of all tribes and tongues find God’s peace for life. Check out Julie’s blog home Come Have a Peace  (www.juliesanders.org) and Marriage Mondays to find reasons for peace and information about her ministry.

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EXPECTANT is available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Follow Julie at:

Facebook: with One Minute4MOM

Twitter: @JulieSanders_

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Three Reasons Authenticity is Worth the Risk by Lindsey Bell

Our guest blogger today is author and speaker Lindsey Bell. Lindsey and I are mentor moms for The M.O.M. Initiative and we met for the first time when we both spoke at the Better Together Conference in Jacksonville, Florida. Lindsey and I have a heart for women struggling with infertility. She shares about her miscarriages and secondary infertility, as our daughter Shannon also shares in my book Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? I know you will be blessed with Lindsey’s post today as she encourages us to be authentic in all circumstances.

Three Reasons Authenticity is Worth the Risk

By Lindsey Bell

3 Reasons Authenticity is Worth the Risk

It’s so easy to be fake, to put on a smiling face when someone asks how you’re doing and to answer back, “I’m doing good. How about you?”

It’s tempting to pretend you’ve got it all together…especially when everyone around you seems to have it all together too. You certainly don’t want to be “that girl” who always has issues.

I know because I’ve been that girl. I’ve been the one who seems to be struggling all the time. I’ve been the girl whose faith is ugly, who is dealing with doubts and questions I don’t want to admit aloud.

One thing I learned during those years, though, is that sometimes authenticity is God’s tool to heal your heart. It certainly was for me.

 My “Authentic” Story

About four years ago, my husband and I began battling secondary infertility.

In 2010, we lost our first child to miscarriage. Then followed miscarriage #2, #3, and #4.

I know for some, especially if you’ve never had a miscarriage or didn’t really struggle with yours, miscarriages might not seem like that big of a deal. But to me, each loss stabbed my heart just a little bit deeper.

Each loss also led me to question God’s love for me. I knew he was capable of fixing whatever was causing our miscarriages, but for whatever reason, he chose not to.

For a while, I tried to hide my brokenness. I assumed (mistakenly) that if I didn’t show how broken I felt, it would go away.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that brokenness doesn’t go away. Broken things don’t get fixed unless you let Someone put them back together again.

It was only when I started sharing about how hurt I was that God began healing my heart and putting me back together again. He used the people around me to shower me with His love…to remind me he did still love me, he was still with me, and he had heard every single prayer I uttered to him.

God used my authenticity to bring healing, and I believe he wants to do the same for many other women as well.

The problem is, we’re afraid to be authentic. We’re afraid of being judged, rejected, or abandoned.

I won’t deny the risk. Authenticity is risky…but it’s also worth it.

Three Reasons Authenticity is Worth the Risk:

 

1. Authenticity opens the door to real relationships.

C.S. Lewis said that “friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another:

What! You too?’”

How many times have you struggled with a problem and thought you were the only one? But then, when you finally got the courage to share your issue, you realized many other women had been there too.

Real relationships are only possible when both people are willing to be real with one another…real about their struggles, their successes, and their lives.

2. Authenticity opens the door to real healing.

Jennifer Rothschild told a story in her book God is Just Not Fair about a speaker who carried a glass of water with her onto the platform as she spoke. This woman held the glass of water throughout the entire presentation.

At first, holding the glass was easy. After all, it was just a glass of water.

But as the class wore on, everyone in the audience could tell the woman’s arms were getting tired. That glass of water—that didn’t weigh much—felt like it weighed a ton because of how long she held it.

You and I often carry around our own glasses of water…our own worries, fears, insecurities, or problems. We don’t want anyone to know what we’re carrying so we pretend it doesn’t exist.

The problem, though, is that it does exist, and it’s getting heavier the longer we carry it alone. Our sisters in Christ can’t help us carry our glasses if they don’t know about them. Likewise, God can’t carry our glasses if we’re not willing to let him have them.

3. Authenticity opens the door to God’s glory shining through us.

I love this quote by Kaci Calvaresi:

“God can’t use a redemptive story that you’re not willing to tell.”

God wants to use our stories to show his glory, but He can only use them if we will share them.

 

Authenticity is scary at times. It’s risky. But it’s also worth it!

Let’s talk: why do you think it’s so hard to be authentic with one another? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts . . .

*photo courtesy: Foreman Photography

About Lindsey Bell:

Lindsey Bell is the author of Searching for Sanity, a parenting devotional designed for busy moms. She’s also a stay-at-home mother of two, minister’s wife, avid reader, and chocolate lover. You can find Lindsey online at any of the following locations:

Her blog: www.lindsey-bell.com

Her website: www.lindseymbell.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/LindseyMBell

Facebook: www.facebook.com/AuthorLindseyBell

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/LindseyMBell01

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Why We’re Better Together

Closing Keynote at Better Together Conferee

Closing Keynote at Better Together Conference

I’m back! I know that you have enjoyed our guest bloggers while I was on the road speaking. Stephanie Shott started out our guest month with telling us about her new book The Making of a Mom. Lillian Penner inspired all Grandparents to pray for their grandchildren on National Grandparents Day in Calling All Grandparents. Debbie Alsdorf’s Challenge in “90 Days to a Physical Renewal” broke all records on my website. Many of you told me how Cindi McManimen’s post on “When God’s Gift Is No” was just what you needed to hear. A big Thank You to these godly women who shared their experiences and God’s faithfulness with you.

The M.O.M. Initiative Better Together Conference

Today, I wanted to share with you some of the highlights of my trip to Florida to speak at The M.O.M. Initiative Better Together Conference. If you’ve been following me, you know that I am on the Mentor Mom team for this great ministry that focuses on moms mentoring moms, one mom at a time. Our first conference was July 31-August 2 in Jacksonville, Florida. I had the honor of presenting four workshops and giving the closing keynote talk.

Twenty other author/speakers came with one purpose—to equip, encourage, and engage other moms in their walk as a mom and in their relationship with Jesus. The speakers donated their time and covered their own travel costs—which gives you a window into the kind of serving ministry this is and how passionately The M.O.M. Initiative team feel about the missional ministry of mentoring moms.

Women Are Lonely

The theme of the conference was Better Together, and many of us used Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12 in our messages because it says so succinctly God’s plan for all of us while here on earth—whatever our role—we’re not to be Lone Ranger Christians. I love the Message version of this Scripture passage:

It’s better to have a partner than go it alone.
Share the work, share the wealth.
And if one falls down, the other helps,
But if there’s no one to help, tough!

By yourself you’re unprotected.
With a friend you can face the worst.
Can you round up a third?
A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.

Women are lonely today. The common reason women say they join the Woman to Woman Mentoring Ministry is because they are lonely and they want to meet another Christian woman. They would rather be matched in a mentoring relationship with a Christian stranger then continue trying to make it on their own.

There are lonely women everywhere—even in the church.Many women who shared their story in Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? said they felt the loneliest at church. When I was a single working mom, I felt isolated and lonely. Doesn’t that just break your heart? It does mine.

What Can We Do About Loneliness?

Last week, the news carried a story of a young mom of a 9-month old and 6-year old in Oregon who committed suicide and her body was found in a remote wooded area where she went to die. I don’t know the circumstances that led her to this dark place where she felt no hope, no help, and no future, but I can only imagine how lonely she must have felt in her pain and anguish. Maybe others noticed and did reach out to help her ease her burden . . . but maybe they didn’t.

If you are that lonely, distraught, and depressed woman, I beg you to get help. Seek out a Christian counselor who will assure you of God’s love and plan and purpose for your life. Join groups of other women at your stage of life. If you have pre-school children, MOPS is a para-church organization with moms who have felt just like you do. It so helps to know you are not alone. Or maybe your church has a group for moms of all seasons. For sure, there is a Women’s Bible study—go! You will find a group of women seeking to apply God’s Word to their life and they can help you find answers in the Bible. Of course, if there is a Mentoring Ministry at your church, join it and seek out a mentor who will pray for you and help you through this tough time.

I always say the first step to healing is helping. So get involved by serving in a ministry or community or your children’s school. There you will meet other women to fellowship and serve with and relationships will develop.

If you are a woman who has had some “been-there-done-that” experiences in your life and you notice women around you and in your church who are displaying signs of loneliness, befriend them and encourage them to become involved in women’s ministry at your church. Maybe you’ll start a Mentoring Moms group and Stephanie Shott’s new book The Making of a Mom could help you in that endeavor.

It’s time that we Christian women step out, speak out, and reach out to our fellow sisters-in-Christ and those who don’t yet know Jesus as their Savior. You never know when God might be using you to save a life—both here on earth and for eternity.

Because remember that we are always—Better Together!

Here are some pictures from The M.O.M. Initiative Better Together Conference and I hope to see many of you at the next one. Stay tuned for when and where!

Just arrived at Cracker Barrell

Some team members meeting for the first time while rocking together on the porch at Cracker Barrel

Ready for Opening Night

Gathering in the hotel lobby…ready for first night!

 

Kicking Up Our Heals Ready for the First Session

Kicking Up Our Heels Ready for the First Session

cupcake tree

Yummy cupcake tower

 

Teaching a workshop on Balancing Life and Ministry

Teaching a workshop on Balancing Life and Ministry

Introducing the speaking team

Introducing the speaking team

Closing Q&A

Closing Q&A

When God’s Gift is “No”

Our guest blogger today is a dear friend and fellow author and speaker from San Diego, California, Cindi McMenamin. Cindi and I met at Mt Hermon Writer’s Conference the year she got her first book contract with Harvest House and we’ve remained encouragers and supporters of each others careers ever since. She interviewed me for stories in several of her books, and the secondary infertility story she shares below is in my book Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?

I know you are going to enjoy what she shares from her new book–

When God Sees Your Tears by Cindi McMenamin

When God Sees Your Tears by Cindi McMenamin

Do you know what it’s like to ask God for something and to keep receiving a “no”?

I do. And it hurts. But I’ve learned through the years that God’s “no” is often a gift greater than what I had originally asked for.

Whether I was trying to get a book published, trying to have a child, or trying to pry open a door of opportunity, every time I received a “no,” I later learned what God was really saying was “Wait, I have something far better for you than you thought to ask for.” Yet all I could see in front of me was a rejection letter. More waiting. Another closed door. Discouragement.

God’s Gift to Hannah was “No.”

Hannah, a woman we read about in the Old Testament, knew that discouragement, too. She longed to have a baby. Yet we find twice in the first few lines of her story that the reason for Hannah’s infertility was “because the Lord had closed her womb” (1 Samuel 1:5-6).

Ouch! Now, I would feel so much better if that sentence about Hannah read, “because she was unable to bear children.” But that verse specifically tells us that the Lord was the One withholding from Hannah the one thing she wanted most in life.

We’d like to think God is behind only the blessings we receive in life and, therefore, we have a hard time wrapping our minds around the possibility that God would allow—or even arrange—certain difficulties to come our way. Yet, that is one of the primary ways He—

  • awakens our need for Him,
  • grows our dependence on Him,
  • shapes our character,
  • and draws us closer to Him.

In Hannah’s case, she became so desperate to have a son that she poured out her heart to God in prayer, promising to give her son back to God if He would finally give her a child. It was then, after Hannah came to that place of complete surrender, that we read God’s gracious, yet timely, response: “And the Lord remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son…” (1 Samuel 1:19-20).

Sometimes “No” means Wait

Hannah got her long-awaited son, but years later than she had anticipated. The apparent “no” from God was really “wait.” And the wait turned out to be the best blessing of all. Hannah didn’t have just any baby. She had a son named Samuel who became one of Israel’s greatest prophets and priests. He anointed Israel’s first two kings and helped turn the nation’s heart back toward God. Wow! Hannah simply asked God for a baby. But God wanted to give her—and a nation—so much more than she asked. So He waited and did it in His timing, not hers.

Scripture tells us that God can do “all things. No plan of (His) can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). Scripture also tells us that “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17 NIV). So if every gift is from God, and you’re praying for a “gift” and it’s not arriving, God is the One who is deciding to withhold that gift. And I have learned that some of God’s “gifts” are the very things He decides to withhold.

 

Sometimes “No” is a gift from God

God’s “gifts” sometimes take the form of difficulties, losses, frustrations, and outright pain. We don’t originally see them as gifts, but more like disappointments, aggravations, or even rejection. But they are gifts, nonetheless, that are given to us to grow us to a new level in our spiritual life or to prepare us for something better that God has in store for us; or perhaps to even help us see something extraordinary about God that we couldn’t see before.

I remember not wanting to accept one of the “gifts” God was giving me, primarily because I saw it as His withholding, not as His giving. I struggled with not being able to have a second child (what doctors now refer to as secondary infertility). It was a struggle because I remember “claiming” Psalm 84:11 as my promise that I would have another child: “No good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly (NASB).”

“Surely another baby is a good thing, God,” I prayed. “Certainly You will not withhold.” And yet, God did. Apparently, what God considered a “good thing” in my life was not birthing a second child, but birthing a writing and speaking ministry, instead. Although, at the time, I felt that God was withholding something from me, I can today see His withholding as a “gift” in terms of a different life direction that He had for me.

Through the years, I’ve seen repeatedly that God’s idea of a good thing—and ultimately what’s best for me in my faith walk with Him—may be completely different than mine. Although my opinion has often differed from God’s in His early stages of withholding something, I have learned not to question the wisdom and actions of an all-knowing, all-loving God who is much more capable of managing my life than I am.

I do not have a second child today because the Lord had closed my womb. But I could also say, “I am living the dream God has placed on my heart through my writing and speaking because the Lord had closed my womb.”

Because the Lord had . . .

I could give you a lengthy list of other “gifts” that I have received at God’s hand, but didn’t originally see as gifts because they all included the phrase because the Lord had…

           I didn’t marry Mike because the Lord had changed his heart.

           I lost a good friend, because the Lord had taken her away.

           I went through a season of loss, because the Lord had shut the door.

There are other ways of looking at those same “gifts” (or withholdings):

          I married Hugh because the Lord had changed Mike’s heart.

          I was spared further hurt, because the Lord had taken her away.

          I can minister to women today because the Lord had shut that door.

What because the Lord had phrases have affected your life and caused your tears to flow? Are you a woman who is where she is today . . .

                       because the Lord had closed that door?

                        because the Lord had changed his heart?

                        because the Lord let you get cancer?

                        because the Lord had not healed her?

Oh, my friend, God has His reasons for why He has allowed or prevented something from happening in your life. And it’s not because He wanted to punish you or make your life miserable. It’s not because He didn’t love you or didn’t care about you or didn’t hear your prayers. It’s very possible that He wants to bless you from another angle. And it’s very possible He wants you to realize that the one thing you need the most—your one missing piece—is Him.

 

Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and award-winning writer who helps women find strength for the soul. She is the best-selling author of When Women Walk Alone(more than 120,000 copies sold) and a dozen other books including When a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts, and her newest release, When God Sees Your Tears, upon which this article is based. For more resources to strengthen your soul, marriage, and relationships with God and others, see her website: www.strengthforthesoul.com.

View More: http://chelseamariephoto.pass.us/cindi

Adoption According to God’s Plan

Mother’s Day is next weekend—a joyous day for mothers with children and a torturous heartbreaking day for “mommies-in-waiting.” In Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?, my daughter Kim vulnerably shares the pain of being childless on Mother’s Day and then the amazing blessing of becoming an adoptive mommy to my precious grandson, Brandon.

Our guest blogger today is my dear friend and fellow The M.O.M. Initiative mentor mom, Lori Wildenberg. Lori and her husband, like my daughter and her husband and so many couples who share their story in Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?—had their plan of how they would become a family. In every case, the couple found peace in surrendering to God’s plan.

Lori and Tom’s Story

Our Plan

As newlyweds, my husband and I had a vision—we discussed and agreed:

• Four kids. Check.
• Three through birth. Check.
• The fourth through adoption. Check.

We had a lot of love to share. We would have three kids and complete our family with an adopted child. We would be great parents so we could provide a nice home for a child that needed one.

This was a good, solid, even honorable plan. Clearly, God would bless this and be on board with our plan.

Yes, adopt a fourth child. Perfect.

Why Isn’t Our Plan Working?

We (by we, I mean me) became consumed with the goal of conceiving. I was hooked on doctor visits; placing all my hope in the medical field. Nothing was going to stop me from achieving my goal.

Every month, for thirty-six months, I vacillated between determined and disappointed. Hopeful and heartbroken.

Finally, after three years, Tom and I decided it was time to ask God about His plan for our family.

Together, we realized our hope had been misplaced.

Following God’s Plan

God sweetly directed us to stop. Stop trying. Stop the doctor visits. Stop looking to medicine. Start looking to Him. He is the One who creates families.

In His great goodness, He had already given us a heart for adoption. And…the three years of infertility had given us perspective.

Had we gone into adoption thinking we were going to do some awesome, sacrificial thing to help a child, our love might have been conditional.

What if the adopted child didn’t appreciate our sacrifice and helping hand?

In His wisdom, the Lord flipped our emotions and thoughts inside out.

We traveled to Bogota, Colombia to receive our precious bundle from God. Holding her, I knew I wanted my daughter more than she needed me.

My motivation was purely selfish.tom with courtney1

 

God did a great thing by bringing the three of us together. Then He turned our plan upside down.
• First through adoption. Check
• Three through birth. Check.
• Four kids. Check.

No medical involvement only supernatural intervention. (The only planned stork arrival was number one!)

Thankfully, His ways are not our ways.

What Not to Say to An Adopting Couple

Recently, Janet did a blog on 10 Things Not to Say or Do to Someone Experiencing Infertility. Here is my list of don’ts regarding couples who are adopting.

Don’t Say:

  • “Once you adopt, you’ll get pregnant.”
  • “What do you know about the child’s real parents?”
  • “How much did you spend?”
  • “Will you be able to love this child as much as your biological kids?”
  • Most questions fall into the none-of-your-business category. The goal of adoption isn’t to get pregnant, it’s to have a child. By the way, an adoptive parent is a real parent.

Do Say: “Congratulations. I am so happy for you.”

And as for love…love multiplies, it endures, it is forever.

Lori Wildenberg, mom of four, wife to Tom, and a licensed parent and family educator, is the co-founder of 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting. Lori is passionate about coming alongside parents to encourage, empower, and support. Her straightforward, realistic approach mixed with transparency, warmth, and gentle humor, engages her audience, and assists moms and dads in their quest to parent well. Lori has co-authored three parenting books—Raising Little Kids with Big Love and Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love scheduled to release May 2014. To schedule Lori for one of your events go to www.loriwildenberg.com or www.1Corinthians13Parenting.com.

 Lori-Wildenberg-240x300-1

 

Hug An Infertile Couple This Week

 

Dear-God-Why-Cant-I-Have-a-Baby11-200x300

You may not have April 20-26 marked on your calendar as National Infertility Awareness Week, but 1 in 6 couples check their calendar frequently to see if they’re pregnant or how long it’s been since they filed adoption papers or when will the infertility tests be back . . .

An Ignored Group

With millions of couples experiencing infertility, a large percentage of the population feel shunned. Yet, you probably know someone dealing with infertility in your neighborhood, your church, your family, your friends, your co-workers . . .Maybe it’s you struggling to become a mommy or experiencing secondary infertility and know what it’s like to feel invisible in a group.

Many of the “mommies-in-waiting” sharing their stories in my book, Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? A Companion Guide for Couples on the Infertility Journey expressed the sorrowful complaint that they felt ignored by friends and family, even in the church–especially in the church.

Often we ignore the infertile couple because we don’t know what to say to them. Or the infertile couple doesn’t talk about their painful situation because people say hurtful things.

People Say The Darnedest Things!

Your loved ones will say all the wrong things. All of us who have gone through infertility agree on this point.—Laurie, A Mommy-in-Waiting

Dear God,

People keep asking when we’re going to start having children, as if I’m making a conscious decision not to! I try shrugging it off with an answer that we probably will “someday.” Inside, I’m dying. Why are people so insensitive and why do they feel it’s ok to ask something so personal? Everyone seems to think they’re a doctor and they know the answer to my infertility. Then the advice . . . the number one thing everyone seems to say is, “Oh, you just need to relax.” Or “You’re young; you’ve got plenty of time.” UGH!!! Help, God, they’re killing me!

Wounded by Words, Kim

Kim is my precious daughter whose struggle with the heartache of infertility was often intensified by well-meaning—yet wounding—words. Many infertile couples’ stories mention how thoughtless and hurtful people’s comments and advice can be. Debbie wrote, “I’ve experienced people in the church say some of the worst things ever to me with every good intention. Probably one of the most insensitive and painful is, ‘Maybe God never meant for you to have children.’”

You can be sure thoughtless, hurtful comments aren’t from God, who instructs: “Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim” (Proverbs 15:4 MSG).

10 Things Not To Say or Do To Someone Experiencing Infertility

I believe in the front of every church directory there should be a list of things that you shouldn’t say to people during times of grief, just like emergency preparedness in the front of the phone book.—Debbie, A Mommy-in-Waiting

Most people don’t mean to be hurtful: they innately want to say and do the right thing. They offer a cliché or something that minimizes your situation or feels patronizing because they’re uncomfortable being around someone suffering. Here are ten helpful tips from Mommies-In-Waiting:

DON’T…                                                                               DO…

1. Talk about people you know with infertility.                    1. Let me talk about mine and listen

2. Tell me God is in control, or has a plan.                            2. Show me God’s love.

3. Tell me to pray harder.                                                      3. Pray for and with me.

4. Pity or patronize me.                                                          4. Show compassion.

5. Avoid me. It makes me feel rejected, different.                5. Keep normal contact with me.

6. Tell others, unless you have asked permission.                 6. Honor my privacy.

7. Offer unsolicited advice or suggestions.                            7. Support my choices.

8. Resent how my infertility affects you.                               8. Remember, this is about me.

9. Ask personal questions or give advice.                              9. Curtail curiosity.

10. Assume it’s a “female” problem.                                     10. Respect it’s personal.

Suggested Responses for the Infertile Couple

We will speak the truth in love.Ephesians 4:15 (NLT)

Following are frequent unwelcome comments and suggested responses. Non-satirical humor often defrays uncomfortable situations. Your goal isn’t to offend or embarrass the person. The responses shouldn’t be said sarcastically, defensively, or angrily. Use this as an opportunity to be a good witness:

1. “When are you two going to start a family?”

Response: What makes you think we’re not trying?

2. “You just need to relax, take it easy, rest more, or take a vacation.”

Response: Then I might have two problems—no baby and no job!

3. “You aren’t getting any younger!”

Response: Are you fishing for an invitation to my next birthday party?

4. “You’re young, you have plenty of time.”

Response: Time is the one thing we have too much of now.

5. “You should take________”—they name some food, herb, or drug.

Response: I’ll check with my doctor about that.

6. “You should try_______”—they suggest some sexual position.

Response: You mean we’re supposed to have sex?

7. “We need grandchildren.”

Response: We need to be parents first.

8. “There must be some hidden sin in your life.”

Response: Jesus forgave my sins when I became a Christian.

9. “You aren’t praying hard enough.”

Response: Are you offering to pray for us?

10. “If God wanted you to have children, you would.”

Response: Ouch! That hurts.

Remember: Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose (Proverbs 18:21 MSG).

*Some excerpts from Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? A Companion Guide for Couples on the Infertility Journey

Kim's family 2014Daughter Kim’s family today! Thank you Lord for these 3 precious blessings

Mother’s Day: Happy or Hurting

“I hate Mother’s Day!” said my dear friend who is longing for a baby. “You know that women struggling with infertility don’t go to church on Mother’s Day.” Kris agrees, “I was that mom-in-waiting for 16 years; I stayed away from baby showers, church, and friends who would get pregnant. I didn’t stop praying, but it WAS the worse pain.” Lisa concurs, “I am guilty of having skipped church a few years before we adopted my son.”

In my book, Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? A Companion Guide for Couples on the Infertility Journey, my own daughter wrote about her painful Mother’s Day experience:

Dear God,

It’s almost Mother’s Day and I don’t know if I can handle seeing all those happy moms at church and brunch. I’m trying to focus on my mom and not think about how I’m missing out on being a mommy on yet another Mother’s Day. This year is especially hard since we’ve been trying to be parents for so long and so hard, only to be repeatedly disappointed. At the store looking for a card for my mom, I see the cute cards at the end of the aisle “To Mommy”…oh God, I wish I were someone’s mommy! I look away and continue focusing at the task ahead, getting my mom and mothers-in-law their cards.

Today’s the day, it’s Mother’s Day. I don’t think I can bear it. It’s just begun and already I want this day over. I pull myself out of bed and get ready for church. I’m not looking forward to the sermon about children being a blessing and honoring mothers. God, help me focus on my mom.

We met my parents at church and I put on my happy face, when inside I was crying watching all the mothers with big smiles dressed in pretty spring dresses and children running all around. This was a day of celebration and I just wanted to go back to bed. The pastor started the message with asking all the mothers to stand up. Hundreds of women stood and everyone applauded. I couldn’t take it any longer and sat slouched over in my seat quietly crying. Toby put his arm around me and my mom held my hand, but nothing took away the pain. I barely heard the rest of the message.

After brunch, I came home, collapsed on my bed, and cried myself to sleep where I remained the rest of the day. God, please don’t make me go through another Mother’s Day with this hole in my heart. I want to stand up in church with all those other mothers beaming from ear to ear and have everyone applaud me. God, please let me stand up next year.

Mother’s Day is especially hard for mommies-in-waiting, but for most of these women, every day is hard. With 1 in 6 couples experiencing infertility, you are, or know, a woman experiencing this heartache. Often we don’t know what to say to them, so we say nothing, or maybe unintentionally say something that makes them feel worse. Kris, who I mentioned in the opening paragraph, says, “We cannot ignore them [women longing for a child]. I know how hard it was for people to talk to me. But I would have loved it if they did.”

In Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?, I offer tools to help you know the “Top Fifteen Things Not to Say or Do And To Say or Do to Someone Experiencing Infertility.” This list is also on the Infertility Support page on my website.

When I was writing the book, women often told me that the place they felt the loneliest was the church. That breaks my heart.  Jesus said he came for the sick, and that includes heartsick. The church should be a safe place for the hurting, not a place where they feel shunned or outcast.  How does your church comfort mommies-in-waiting on Mother’s Day and every day?

Mothers of Prodigals

Another group of women who will be hurting on Mother’s Day are the mothers of prodigals. They may not even know where there child is, or know all too well where they are and what they are doing that breaks a mother’s heart and the heart of God. These moms also need comforting, a hug, a reminder that this day is for them too and they are not forgotten or ignored.

I was that hurting mom and in Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter: Hope, Help & Encouragement for Hurting Parents, I tell the story of praying daily that my daughter would find her way back to God, and six years later, she did. This Mother’s Day weekend she and I will be sharing our story at a Mother/Daughter tea. I’ve had a vision of us doing this for many years and prayed expectantly that God would bring my dream to life, and He has.

And Kim who was that heartsick mommy-in-waiting on Mother’s Day is now blessed with a family, but when we speak to the women God brings to this Mother’s Day Tea, neither of us will ever forget what it felt like to be hurting on Mother’s Day. We will speak with caring and compassion a comforting message of hope in God’s plan and timing. We won’t ignore these women, we will love on them!

I hope that you will do the same for the mommies-in-waiting, the moms of prodigals, or the moms who have lost a daughter or a son who may need a shoulder to cry on . . . a prayer . . . an understanding hug. If you’ve been where they’re at, mentor them like only someone who has been in their shoes can. If you haven’t been in their shoes, just let them know you can’t possibly understand, but you’re there for them and God is too!

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”—1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)

NOTE: Besides not knowing what to say, many of us don’t know what to give a mommy-in-waiting or a mom of a prodigal, and so we usually give them nothing. The books I have written for these women are full of hope and encouragement from the voices of other women who have walked the same journey, as well as from God’s Love Letter.  So for the month of May I’m running a sale on my website for Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? and Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter. Another helpful book might be Face-to-Face with Sarah, Rachel, and Hannah: Pleading with God. I will sign and personalize each book.

40 Years of Love!

“I’m sorry, but you’ll never have children.” Those were the doctor’s words to me at a post-op visit after surgery for a ruptured ovarian cyst. “Your ovaries look like those of a 90 year-old woman.” I was a twenty year-old, newly engaged college student. My life was over. Or so I thought.

After three years of marriage, I was thrilled to hear another doctor congratulate me: “You’re pregnant!” My mother called it a miracle, but I just wanted to be like any normal woman who could get pregnant and have a baby.

The last week of pregnancy, when my baby was a week overdue, everyone kept calling to see if I was “still home.” I enjoyed every moment of those 9 months and one week, and even steeled myself through a natural, long delivery, but nothing could prepare me for what it would feel like to hold my baby girl—instant, unconditional love.

I was a mom at last! But I had no concept of the life-changing responsibility I was undertaking or the importance of my being an exemplary role model for her. After all, she was just an infant and I would have so many years to work out all the details of mothering.

Where did those years go? This week, February 26, my baby girl, Kimberly Michele, turns 40 and she is a mother herself of three precious children. I remember the day I turned 40 and it doesn’t seem that long ago.

Kim and I didn’t have the life journey I anticipated upon first looking into her dark brown eyes. When she was only 2 years-old, her dad and I divorced, and I would spend the next seventeen years as a single mom juggling motherhood and a career. To the outside world, I did a great job as I moved up the career ladder of success; but as I moved further into the world and father away from the Jesus I asked into my heart at eleven, I role modeled the world’s ways to Kim.

Kim loved our life and all that I was able to provide her, even though she often cried that she missed me, as I headed off on another business trip. But we had time, right? She was still young and eighteen years is a long time…. I’ll make up to her the time we’ve been apart.

But in a blink of an eye, she was sixteen and dating. Then within moments, she was nineteen and declaring she was going off to college to live with her boyfriend, and she didn’t care what I had to say about it. I had recently rededicated my life to the Lord and was now trying to tell her this lifestyle was wrong, but she wasn’t buying it.

I mistakenly thought that when I changed my life and returned to God, she would follow right behind me. Wrong! That’s when the Lord assured me that, yes, I had let the first nineteen years of her life slip by without including Him in the parenting, but it wasn’t over yet. And so I began praying—daily, biblically, expectantly, persistently, sacrificially, unceasingly, and thankfully—as I describe in the first seven chapters of my book Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter.

I’d like to say that she instantly changed her ways, but it would be another six years of daily praying before she returned to me and to the Lord.

The Lord graciously restored the years the locust had eaten. I had the opportunity to do what I should have done from the day she was born: mentor her in how to be a godly woman. Today, I am so proud of the woman she has become. We’re now speaking together as “Two About His Work,” and she’s giving her testimony in a few weeks at her MOPS group.

Even through the difficult years, my love for Kim never faltered. She knew I didn’t condone her behavior, but neither did I condemn her. Our relationship has endured and grown stronger in spite of divorce, single parenthood, a traveling mom, both our prodigal years, my remarriage and blending a new family, my breast cancer, her infertility, and all the trials and joys of life.

I thought I would feel terribly old the day she turned 40; but instead, I feel blessed with the 40 years God has given me to love my precious daughter, and I’m grateful that the work He has done in my life will carry on through the work He is doing in her life. She’s my legacy, and I have given her the most valuable of inheritances: belief in Jesus Christ. 40 years is nothing in light of spending eternity together.

Mentoring Words to Moms:

  • Are you the woman today you want your daughter to become?  You’re the closest role model and mentor your daughter has.
  • It’s never too early to pray daily for your children. Pray for them before you have a problem.
  • Praying personalized Scripture—God’s Word back to Him—keeps you praying God’s will and not your own.
  • Enjoy every day of your children’s lives—they never get younger and neither to do you. Make each day count.

Janet-and-Kim

My daughter Kim and I speak together as Two About His Work.