Something incredible happened last night. Something mystical. Something cosmic. Something that would be hard to believe, except that it happened to me.
I went to a yoga class last night that one of my favorite teachers was teaching. She started off the class talking about how many yoga teachers will instruct you to “clear your mind” but how that’s nearly impossible for most of us and it also isn’t that useful. She encouraged us to instead be mindful. To quiet everything so that we hear our thoughts. To quiet ourselves so that we listen. To be in tune to our thoughts and our minds and settle into that. Usually we don’t do this on a day-to-day basis. We wake up with noise (oh those pesky alarm clocks), we turn the radio on in the car, we speak to co-workers or customers during our work day, and we speak to our spouses or our friends when we are away from work. We are NOISY. And I am one of the noisiest of them all.
I am an extrovert, meaning I get energy from connecting with people. Many times extroverts are talkative and outgoing, and I’m no exception. It’s an advantage to have these skills in many scenarios, however one struggle of us extroverts (or maybe it’s just me?) is that I can fill my life with too much noise. I love to talk and connect and sometimes that doesn’t leave time for reflection. I am also a planner. I love to plan. I love the research that comes with planning, I love the decision making that comes with planning, and I love having something exciting to look forward to.
Planners like me are always finding something to think about. If I just get home from an amazing vacation (thoroughly planned out to the last little detail), I am thinking about planning the next one. If we just got done eating a delicious meal on a Sunday night, I am thinking about planning our meals for the upcoming week. If we complete a home improvement project that we had been working on for months, I will start to plan for the next one. My name is Amber and I am a serial planner.
Given these character flaws - I mean traits - that I have, it can be understandable that I have trouble quieting my mind. The last two years have been especially hard to quiet my mind. Ask anybody who has been through the infertility struggle and they will tell you the same thing. You cannot. take. your. mind. off. it. Between tracking your cycle on a fertility app, peeing on a stick to see if you’re ovulating, overthinking every single twinge or mood or food craving or aversion you feel in the dreaded two week wait, infertility has a way of sucking the happiness out of your every day moments and consuming all of your focus. And many times that’s just the beginning of the fertility struggle.
Once you’ve tried for 12 months, many doctors will start considering whether something is “wrong” with you. So then begins the process of visits to different doctors, having different tests run and procedures done, and in my case surgery to treat an issue with my reproductive system. Through all of this, your head, and for me, my relationship with God, had gotten jumbled.
I kept asking God that silly question we humans can’t help but ask when we are struggling, “WHY ME?” Why did you make this so hard for me? Why can’t I have a baby like everyone else? Why are people who don’t deserve a baby getting pregnant? (That was low, I’m not proud of that feeling). It was HARD to deal with. It was hard. But, everything is hard when you don’t understand it. School subjects are hard until you have that breakthrough understanding and everything clicks. Running a 5k is hard until you start running more and build up your stamina and strength to be able to do that. So many things are difficult at first. But then they get easier.
I would say I have been in the “this is hard” stage for most of this TTC (trying to conceive) journey. I’ve also been in a constant struggle of wanting to listen to God and trust His will for my life, while also wanting my way. Wanting my plan. My well thought-out and crafted plan, I should say. I knew where the nursery would be. I knew how I wanted it to look. I knew what we would name our baby. I knew how much time I would take off work. I knew everything. I had planned it. But, like with many things in life, God had different plans.
It was hard for me to understand why He wouldn’t give us a baby. I knew He wanted us to be parents. I knew that being a parent and experiencing that love would be the closest we could ever get to understanding God’s love for us, His children. I knew He liked good people having babies. Right?
I have learned that God is not like this. God wants the best for us and I still believe He will make us parents one day, but He cares about more than that. He cares about me. He cares about my relationship with Him. He cares about my growth. And if He needs to teach me a lesson, He will.
Over the last few weeks, something has changed in me. I am beginning to see God’s story in my life in a new way and I’m stopping the constant questioning that had unfortunately become so normal for me. I’m working on my relationship with Him. I am trusting Him. I used to think I actually did trust Him, but what I was really saying was, “God, I trust you (as long as your plan fits my plan).”
It’s so challenging to trust God when you don’t know the outcome. It’s so difficult to walk into the unknown, with arms wide open, and say honestly and sincerely that you are ready and willing to go and to endure whatever God wants for you. It’s so hard. But, like everything else, it is hard at first, but gets easier.
For me, it got easier with circumstance. God over and over had to give me situations that reminded me that I was absolutely not in control. And this control freak didn’t like that at first. In the past six months, I have had so many real life hardships that have been a reminder that I am not in control. Family members have been in the hospital with serious illnesses, a dear friend lost his father, another friend lost her baby, and more. My infertility struggle is no different than those.
At the beginning of this year, after considering this for many months prior, I asked to work a reduced schedule. I wanted to take Fridays off of work. The only people who had done this at my office were people with children, which my boss reminded me of when I had the conversation to ask for it. I responded with, “Well, if that was in my control, we would be having a different conversation right now.” So, with that statement, my courageous request was accepted by my understanding employer, and I was to begin my new work schedule.
This new schedule allowed me to have quiet on Fridays. QUIET! What was I going to do with it? With my new found free time, I explored my different passions. I took online classes. I wrote more. I read more books. I listened to podcasts. I was filling my soul in a way that I hadn’t done for five years, since I had graduated college. I was getting rejuvenated.
I also started the Faith Like Hannah Instagram page and this site. I found other women just like me, with the same struggles and challenges. They shared their raw stories and heartaches and happiness and I found (and still continue to find) so much solace in their experiences. I love the TTC Instagram community. It is encouraging and amazing. Had I not had this struggle and taken Fridays off, I would never have experienced all the connections and shared love between those women.
Another side effect of this measly TTC struggle has been marital changes. Without getting too in depth (my husband is markedly more private than I am and would not appreciate me baring all the details), I will say that for the first year of the TTC struggle, we had some difficult times. I don’t know if any couple dealing with infertility can deal with it without having some negative effects to the marriage. However, through these challenges, we have learned how to better communicate, how to understand each other, and I am confident that if we would have had a child the first time we “started trying,” we would not have been as good of parents or as good of partners as we will be when the time comes. We have grown so much over the past two years and it’s clear that God had intended for this growth to happen.
My faith has been the biggest area of growth during this struggle. I have learned that a relationship with God is not a one way street. It doesn’t consist of me repeating a half-hearted prayer before supper, drinking coffee to stay awake during the sermon on Sunday mornings, and only really seeking connection with Him when I am in need. It’s a relationship like any other in the sense that it requires work. It requires maintenance. It also requires honestly and vulnerability.
Instead of saying, “Why me?” I can just be honest with God. I can say, “God, I am having a hard time with this. I know you know that and I know you see me. I don’t understand what’s going on right now, but I trust You.” When I started being honest with God, I started to feel myself getting drawn closer. I started to feel the relationship forming.
This summer has been amazing. After I healed from my surgery, my husband and I went on a mission trip to Nicaragua. First of all, us even going on this trip and finding out about it was serendipitous in and of itself. So many little pieces fell into place, and we both felt like this trip was meant to happen.
That trip opened our eyes, gave us perspective, and grew our faith in more ways than we could have imagined. It shifted everything for us. Our struggles in our American home with air conditioning and food whenever we wanted it shifted to be blessings. Our hope for our own child shifted to seeing how many children already exist that need love and a family. Our Americentric way of viewing the world was shifted to realize that we are just small little dots on a beautiful, vibrant, colorful earth where God is ever present. God moved in us on that trip.
Upon returning, my eyes have been opened and my heart has as well. My husband and I started a daily devotional. It keeps us connected to God and to each other on a level we were never at before. I have been exploring adoption and am feeling what might be a little push from God toward that direction. I have been reading more. I have been more compassionate. We haven’t been spending as much money as we usually do. We have been more grateful. We decided to try to not turn our air on at all so that we could be reminded of our trip and keep that in perspective.
God was working. God is working. He’s always working. He’s always there. When I took another pregnancy test in a moment of hope and saw another negative, He was there. When I decided to ask for a different work schedule, not knowing what my employer would think of me or the fear of outsiders thinking I was slacking or not good enough, He was there. When my dad had emergency surgery to repair an aneurysm earlier this year, He was there. When my friend lost her baby, He was there. When we traveled farther from our home than we ever have been, in a country that sounded, smelled, and looked different than our own, He was there. When I’m running, He is there. When I’m sleeping, He is there. When I’m sad, He is there. When I’m happy, He is there.
Last night, at the end of yoga class we went into “savasana" or “corpse pose”. The room became quiet while the students laid on their backs in full relaxation. The music became soft and soothing. There was a subtle smell of citrus and the instructor placed a small pillow over each of our eyes. I quieted my mind. I didn’t clear my mind, I just quieted it. I started praying. I thanked God for specific people in my life, I asked for His help for some other people who I knew needed Him, and I started thanking Him. Thanking Him for Him. Thanking Him for this infertility journey. Thanking Him for how it has shaped my marriage in the best ways. Thanking Him for how it has connected me to other women. Thanking Him for how it allowed us to go to Nicaragua. Thanking Him for how it has made me grow closer to Him. Then, as clearly as ever, I saw Him. I saw God.
He appeared to me and said vividly and clearly, “Yes. Now you understand.” It is hard to describe how I felt in that moment, and I felt myself question it, then again He spoke to me and said ever so clearly, “Yes. Now you understand.” Then the vision was gone and I felt tears streaming down my face. I had seen Him. And I had heard Him. So many times inmy life I have asked for Him to speak to me and He never has. Yet here He was.
I know it might be hard to believe and if it wasn’t me who this happened to, I don’t know if I would believe it either. I have requested His presence and for Him to speak to me so many times before, and have been met with nothing. Not a thing. No vision, no words, just quiet. I recall a moment in high school when I was sitting in my car that was parked on the road outside my house. It was night time and I was bawling. I was baring my soul and asking God so desperately to help me. I struggled with depression in high school and my brother had moved in with my grandparents and there were other pressures and pain that I felt during those years. I didn’t understand so many things and I was crying out to God to make Himself known to me. But He never did. He never came to me as a vision or spoke with a booming voice. Eventually, I wiped my own tears, went inside, and went to bed. Without the clear sense of God that I was seeking.
I don’t know why He didn’t show up then when I needed Him. Maybe He was waiting for me to grow a little on my own. Maybe He felt like I was not putting the time into the relationship. Maybe He did speak to me, but my despair covered the sound of His voice. I may never understand the reason, but I do understand His presence in my life now. I know He is with me all the time. I know that I can be honest with Him. And I know He still does make His voice heard. I used to think He only did that for people in the Bible, and that He must be done appearing to people on earth. Now I know He’s not.
I’m not sure if He will ever speak to me again or if I’m just another crazy person who had a vision. But I know the sense and feeling that came over me last night was assuring and amazing. It allowed my soul to fully rest. It gave me peace. It produced a sense in me of being settled and being heard. And I’m so thankful for that.