Christianity, Infertility

Haiku Sunday : Wings Unexhausted.

“Soaring with the storm.

Wings unexhausted. Softly.

The beauty of flight.”

I know. It’s not my best haiku ever.

I was walking with my husband to the movie theater last weekend, and we happened to see a little girl and her mother feeding a flock of birds. These birds were everywhere and in very large numbers, so I just had to get a picture of them. In the theater, as we were waiting for the movie to begin, I started uploading some of my bird pictures to Instagram and wanted to think of a haiku to go with one of them. I thought for a few minutes about what the bird pictures meant to me – aside from being random pictures that I took while walking to the movies – and as I scrolled through the pictures I’d taken, I was reminded of a sermon that I’d heard as a child.

The sermon, as I remember it,  was based on Isaiah 40:31. This verse says that “Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and will not faint.” The minister who gave the sermon was emphasizing the point that when eagles fly through harsh winds or storms, they do not tire themselves out by flapping their wings incessantly. Instead, they soar. They get up into the air, spread their wings out, and allow the wind to take them the rest of the way. The minister was trying to encourage us to have that kind of trust in God. Instead of exhausting ourselves by constantly trying to make our lives fit into our own agendas, we should learn to “spread out our wings” (relinquish our need to control and manipulate life), and allow the “wind” (God) to take us on the journey. In doing this, we find more beauty and meaning in our lives – because we allow the one who gave us our lives to also direct it.

One of the things that I am learning, through infertility, is how to “wait upon the Lord” and “soar with the storm.” I am quite an indifferent person, and have never really wanted anything very badly in my life. I’m easy-going and easy to please, and I have often mistaken my indifference for patience, peace, or acceptance. In the times where I have been denied a want or desirable outcome, I was able to get over it fairly quickly (within minutes!). The truth is, I’ve never wanted anything badly enough to really become frustrated when it was denied me. Furthermore, the few things that I have wanted in my life have been within my ability to obtain.

Infertility is the first time that I am facing a situation where I can’t have something that I really want, and I can’t control when – or even if – I’ll get it.

And I’ll be honest, I hate infertility. With a passion. But I can also see the beauty in what it is teaching me. I can see how God is using it to make me a better person – more compassionate, more transparent, more trusting, and with more respect for the gift and the Giver of life. The longer I struggle with infertility, the better I am getting at simply spreading my wings and allowing the wind to take me where it will. I am getting better at waiting on the Lord. And for that, I am grateful.

No matter what your struggle is, use it as an opportunity to learn how to have true patience. Use it as an opportunity to become more compassionate and sensitive to the silent struggles of others. Use it to find beauty and meaning in the life lessons that your struggle will inevitably bring – the life lessons that will equip you for potentially harder times in the future. Most of all, use it to learn how to wait upon the Lord. He knows what He is doing.

Soar with the storm.

General, Language

Life in Haiku

I’m starting something new on my instagram page, where I will take a picture and write a Haiku to go with it each day. I’ve mentioned here before how much I love Haiku, and I really would like to get better at it.

I’ll choose some of my daily haikus to elaborate on here, with more information as to why I wrote it and what it means to me. Eventually, it would be nice to create a photography/haiku book and publish it. I don’t know how marketable that would be, but I am always coming up with haikus and I think it would be nice to have a place to store them.

Today I posted this picture and the accompanying haiku.

I have already /taken the road less traveled. /Nothing left to fear.

I have already / taken the road less traveled./ Nothing left to fear.

I wrote this haiku last year on my way to work. I have been in an odd place, spiritually, for quite a few years and although I often seek relief from this spiritual “condition,” I also have begun to realize what a blessing it has been. Through the spiritual  experiences of my life, I have been able to see and learn so much more about God and about humanity than I ever would have been able to otherwise. This isn’t to say that I have all the answers or have reached some kind of enlightenment, far from it. However, I have a peace about my spiritual state. A peace that eradicates the fear and anxiety that I should have, considering the spiritual turmoil I have been through.

What I love about haiku is it’s ability to be simple and yet simultaneously poignant. It’s really been on my heart to study haiku and learn about how I can become better at it. I want to make that a goal for 2015.

Christianity, Family, Religion

This Time, Next Year…

“Some women know why // Feeling ill brings so much hope. // The greatest let down.”

I’m not a poet, but I love haikus. Several months ago, I wrote this haiku at the end of a highly-symptomatic two week wait that ended in failure. False hope is something that any woman trying to conceive for more than a few months faces at various times during her journey. Generally, our false hope comes in the form of having multiple pregnancy symptoms that – no matter how convincing or plausible – turn out to be the result of something other than pregnancy. But for some of us, false hope shows up in other ways.

About a year ago, in the middle of August an old friend’s husband, that I don’t know very well, approached me through social media to inform me that God had told him I would conceive within a year’s time. My first reaction was surprise that someone I never speak to would contact me to tell me this. My second reaction was skepticism.

I told my husband about what had been said, and although I think he was a little put off by the fact that another man approached me about my fertility – he kept an open mind and said that we should pray about it. After all, we do believe that prophecy can be real. I just happen to believe that most of the time, it isn’t.

Over the next few weeks, I tried to think over some reasons for and against belief. The pros were that (1) As far as I knew, this man knew nothing about our struggle with infertility, (2) he had predicted – or prophesied – the conception of his own child, to the month, well before it happened, and (3) as far as I could tell, this man and his wife are devout believers in Christ who, even if they’d mis-heard God, would not intentionally lie to me.

The cons included questions like (1) why would God speak to some other man about our fertility instead of speaking to my own husband? (2) why did the man’s wife not say anything to me about it – since she is the person with whom I am actually friends? and (3) what if the man did know about my infertility via his wife (who really didn’t know much herself, but could have speculated)? What if they had been praying for us and were just trying to make us feel better, as opposed to actually having had a revelation from God?

I was afraid to believe in something that would turn out to be untrue, but I was also afraid not to believe something that God may have said. I thought it would be better to err on the side of faith, but still wasn’t ready to make that leap. So I discussed my dilemma with God and asked him to confirm whether or not this prophecy was true.

The following month, on the same date that I had received the first prophecy, a woman from my mother’s church revealed that she had seen me and was struck with the impression that I would be pregnant “soon.” Could this be the confirmation? I was still doubtful. I asked God to forgive me if this was supposed to be my “sign,” but I told him that I needed more confirmation than that if I were going to start believing that this prophecy had been true.

For a long time, I got nothing. I wasn’t sure how to interpret God’s silence. It could have meant that God was telling me that the prophecy was not true. It could have meant that the prophecy was true, and God was telling me not to ask for further confirmation since He’d already given it to me. Or, it could have meant that God’s response was to not respond at all in regards to whether or not the prophecy was true. My biggest concern was that I did not want to believe in something that God had not actually promised. What a waste of time that would be!

During this time, I started to mature in this infertility process. I went from naively hoping to be pregnant each month to understanding that ultimately, I want God’s will to trump mine, even if that means I will never conceive. If I’m being honest, I was skeptical of this prophecy for the majority of the year, and my doubt made me feel guilty. I kept remembering the story in the Bible where Jesus did no miracles in Nazareth because the people there did not believe. I started putting effort into believing this prophecy. Every time I thought negatively of it, I tried to correct myself and change my thinking. Whenever I imagined future events – upcoming vacations, relocations, anniversaries, birthdays, etc – I tried to imagine myself either pregnant or with a child in tow. I tried to picture how I would plan to accomplish certain tasks or obligations around this future, mystery baby. Whenever someone else got pregnant (at least fifteen people in my life announced pregnancies during this time period), I told myself that, according to this prophecy, I wasn’t going to be very far behind them.

Still, I struggled with doubt. And the fact that I had received no additional confirmation of this prophecy caused me to believe that most likely, it wasn’t true.

One afternoon I was reading the Bible when I came across the story of Abraham and Sarah. God had come to them and said, “I will return to you this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” (Genesis 18:10). A similar prophecy was made in 2 Kings 4:16, when Elijah prophesied that someone would have a son the following year. I didn’t go looking for these passages, I didn’t even know about them prior to having randomly found them. I wondered if these scriptures could be the confirmation that I had been waiting for? At the very least, they confirmed that God does in fact allow prophecies of the type that I received.

As month after unsuccessful month dragged on, I felt increasingly torn between skepticism and belief and I had no idea how God wanted me to handle it. On one hand, I am skeptical by nature. And although I believe that God can do anything – I need to make sure that He actually said He’d do it before I go around putting any faith into it. On the other hand, I’d heard so many stories in my life of people who had, against all odds, held onto their faith that something would happen and were proven right! I wanted to be on that side of my story. I didn’t want to be the one who gave up. So, finally, in the last five months of the year in question, I decided to put aside all doubts and just believe.

The final cycle in which the prophecy could be fulfilled arrived in August, 2014. By this time, my husband and I had been dealing with infertility for a grand total of four years (depending on when you start counting). We did everything we could to meet the prerequisites for conception, and the two week wait began.

It was one of the more difficult two week waits, for me. It wasn’t just the anxiety surrounding whether or not this would be the cycle. It wasn’t the fact that I literally had no symptoms of pregnancy that month. It wasn’t just the question of how to proceed medically if it didn’t turn out to be the cycle. It wasn’t just the fact that we’d attended our first foster/adoption meeting during this cycle. It wasn’t just the fact that we visited friends whose daughter was conceived at the same time that we’d actively begun trying. It wasn’t just hoping that, even if the prophecy had been false, God would make it true because we’d spent an entire year striving to believe it.

It wasn’t just the fact that I started my period on the day of a family friend’s funeral.

I had erred on the side of faith and had trusted in something that wasn’t God. And yet, God had allowed this to happen. With His complete understanding of all the over-analyzing that goes on inside my head. With His full awareness that I forced myself to believe this untruth because of a desire to please Him in the first place. With His absolute knowledge of whether or not I will ever be a biological mother. Instead of telling me, “Elisabeth, this prophecy is not from me.” He allowed me to believe in a lie. And if a ‘next time’ ever comes around, how will I know whether or not God has truly spoken?

Is it too trusting of me to say that there must be a reason He allowed this? I’m not mad at God. I’m not mad at the false prophet. Things are what they are, and I accept that. But I can’t help but wonder – what is the purpose of wasted time? What is the purpose of false hope?

Is there one?