I Am 1 in 8

The irony is not lost on me.

Today begins National Infertility Awareness Week. On the very same day we are celebrating Jesus coming back to life from the dead begins a week raising awareness for women who desperately want the same thing – to bring life from what seems dead: our wombs, our eggs, our bodies.

The irony isn’t lost on me.

But neither is the hope. If Jesus can be raised from the dead, surely He can create life in our bodies. Surely, no matter how dire our situations, hope is not lost.

Our faith would be in vain had He not risen. But He has. And His resurrection changed everything, not the least of which is bringing life where there is death. Even to our broken bodies.

One in 8 women struggle with infertility. I am 1 in 8.

But I struggle as one with hope. Today we celebrate life. Life is always a possibility.

Don’t lose hope.

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[Photo Credit: Trishsays_ on Instagram}

Herein is Love

“God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them.

He creates the universe, already foreseeing – or should we say “seeing”? there are no tenses in God – the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up.

If I may dare the biological image, God is a “host” who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and “take advantage of” Him.

Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.”

― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

A Second Word from God: Hannah

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Hope.

That is my one-word from God for 2014. But there is a second word (we’ll get to that story in a minute).

I admit, ‘hope’ hasn’t really been a pressing thought in my head. It’s more like background music I’m oblivious to, most of the time.

I see inspiring quotes and Bible verses with the word ‘hope’ in them constantly, and definitely, it encourages me. Lately, however, hope hasn’t so much meant the presence of hope but more like the absence of hopelessness. Semantics, maybe. But I don’t think they are the same thing. It’s more like one (absence of hopelessness) is the precursor of the other (hope).

Hope shows up at times when I’m tempted to be hopeless. Then, in its place, hope appears.

However, a few weeks ago, Hope with a capital ‘H’ showed up.

A little backstory: A big part of my infertility struggle has been wondering if this was really going to happen. My struggle hasn’t been whether or not God could do it; it’s been whether or not He would.

I know enough to know that He is my only hope in this (no pun? intended). I have confidence in what doctors and technology can do, but they aren’t God. They can’t create life nor make it grow.

There are many women, just like me, who either are or have been in the same situation: dealing with infertility issues, waiting on God.

But many of these girls have gotten some word from God, some sign, that this was going to happen for them. Just a matter or time.

That hasn’t been me.

I’ve wanted to believe that for myself, but God has never told me that.

The closest I’ve come to that was last summer when I was having my quiet time. God used several verses to encourage my heart about having children some day. It was kind of surprising to me because at the time, I wasn’t really praying about getting pregnant and my infertility issues weren’t really on my radar either.

But if you know me at all, you would know that, for me, that’s not enough. Call it a lack of faith, skepticism, whatever – but I’m always erring on the side that maybe, possibly, I got it wrong. Maybe I was reading into it.

Well, a few weeks ago, God spoke up a little louder.

We had just finished our inservice days, and at our school, we end them with worship and prayer together. As we were packing up to leave, Lucy, one of my co-workers approached me.

Lucy and I are friendly at work – ‘work-friends.’ As department chairs, we have lots of meetings together, but our classrooms are in separate ends of the building, not leaving much time for anything more than casual chit-chat in the teacher’s room.

I doubt that she knows much – if anything – about my infertility struggles – unless she heard it through the grapevine.

As I was leaving, Lucy approached me and this is what happened: (I wrote it down after we spoke, so I’m trying to convey it as accurately as possible):

“Lucy came up to me and said that while she was praying, God put me on her heart. And wouldn’t let up. During our prayer time, God kept drawing her attention to me. She said she felt the Holy Spirit churning inside of her, and she knew she had to come find me.

“She said that she didn’t know what I was going through, but God wanted her to tell me one word:

Hannah.’

[Hannah is a woman in the Bible who was barren, and after basically praying her guts out, God answered her prayer with a son. Her story is in 1 Samuel 1-2.]

“Lucy went on to tell me, from God, that this is not the last resort; the doctors don’t matter. I was to keep crying out to the Lord, like Hannah. Keep knocking. God hears my prayers; He hasn’t forgotten me. He will give me a child in His time…and I am to remember that when God gives us a baby. This baby is His, and we are to dedicate it back to The Lord.

“She said, ‘You WILL have a child. Don’t give up. Be like Hannah. Keep praying. Keep praying His Word. Be persistent. It’s not the last resort. You are where you should be – God has you here for a purpose – but He sees the desire of your heart.’”

“Then she said she saw me like a tree – an oak with deep roots. The winds were blowing and bending the tree, but the tree never snapped because the roots were deep.”

The word God gave me this year is Hope. The second word God has given me is Hannah.

And while I wouldn’t say there have been lightning bolts and writing in the sky speaking words of hope to me, I would say that hope has been the under-current of these past few months.

It’s like the moving sidewalk in the airports; hope has been carrying me along, from one place to the next.

Most significant, I think, has been hope’s effect on my disappointments. It’s April. That means I’ve had 4 negative pregnancy tests. One failed IUI.

A few months ago, I would have been depressed for a few days. There would have been tears. Lots of them. Questions. A whole series of mental and emotional gymnastics that would have worn me out.

But there haven’t been. Was it a let-down to only see one line on the stick? Yup. Did my heart drop? Yes. But only for a minute.

After that, truth sets in: it’s just not time. Crying over it is not going to make it happen any sooner.

So, the stick gets tossed in the trash, and it’s on with my day.

That’s what hope has been looking like these days: a negative pregnancy test thrown in the trash and no tears afterwards.

And one day, hope will look like Hannah – hope fulfilled, a prayer answered, a baby in my arms, offered back to the Lord.

In the meantime, Hope just got a little louder.

{Your Turn: What has been the theme of your life lately? What has God been saying to you?}

[Photo Credit: Ashting]

Today, My Heart is Somewhere Else

imageAs far as Saturday mornings go, this one is just about perfect.

My husband peacefully sleeping in our bed, after being away for a week of training for his job; 60 degrees by 10am, with sunlight streaming in through my front window; a quiet house, a cup of coffee, and me on the couch with the newspaper and my iPad.

But even with all of this, my heart is somewhere else.

Oaxaca, Mexico.

I have never been to Oaxaca, but I feel like should be on my way there now.

Our missions team from school left at an ungodly hour this morning for their missions trip. This is a group I’ve traveled with many times (the group, I mean; the students vary as seniors graduate and new ones are added). It was a natural fit for me, as I spent most of my 20s and half of my 30s on foreign missions trips.

This trip was always a highlight for me, and I never felt like I was making a sacrifice, even though I had to give up my Spring Break to go. While exhausting on every level, those trips energized me rather than sucked me dry. Watching our kids fall in love with God, missions, and serving – and being able to serve along side them – is a high for me quite unlike anything else.

My attendance on this trip has been spotty over the last few years. I went faithfully for the first few years, from 2007 – 2009.

I missed my first trip in 2010 because it coincided with my wedding (Hey, it happens).

I went the next year in 2011.

I missed 2012 because it was an awful, stressful year, and I had nothing to give; I legitimately needed the break.

I missed 2013 because I was recovering from miscarriage #1.

And I am presently missing (in every sense of the word) 2014 because of how unpredictable infertility treatment makes your life. There was no way I could have committed that far in advance – especially since I was pregnant when the school year started.

Turns out, had I had a magic ball and could have seen the future, during the week of this trip – no, I would not be pregnant, and no, I would not be ovulating. The window was quite perfect, actually.

But, that information came too late (on Sunday).

So here I am, with my perfect Saturday morning to myself – but wishing it wasn’t to myself. Wishing I was on a plane somewhere over Texas, Mexico-bound.

Infertility puts such a big question mark over so many areas of your life and future. It really is impossible to make any kind of concrete plans more than a few weeks out. Will this be the month that we get our BFP and everything changes? Will I be pregnant? Will I be ovulating? Will I be miscarrying again?

There was just no way I could have said yes to this trip when they needed my yes. It was with choked-back tears yesterday that I hugged them good-bye as some told me, ‘I wish you were coming.’

(Yeah. Me, too.)

In particular, I wonder about my future and missions. In addition to the numerous trips I’ve gone on solo (at least 12 foreign and a handful of state-side – I lost count), my husband and I have been to Nigeria twice together.

I wonder when we will go again. If we will go again. When might that be, if we have a baby? And how can you plan as far out as at you need to if you never know if you will be pregnant?

Will I ever go on another trip with my school kids? Having a baby will change all that, too.

I’m incredibly content with my life right now. A job I love, a husband I love, a church I love, friends I love, all my loved ones healthy. I have a lot to be grateful for.

But a small corner of my heart hears the call from distant, unknown places – and wonders if I’ll ever be able to answer it.

Today, I hear it from Mexico. With every potential opportunity, the calls echo from different dots on the map. But I hear them. And it is hard not being able to answer.

It is bittersweet for me to realize that I am in a different place in my life for the moment – a good place that God ordained for me – but there is a another part of me that is tugged in another direction.

While I’m here in NY, on my couch with my peaceful Saturday morning, my thoughts and prayers drift to all those places I can’t physically be.

Even still, I sit here hoping that, one day, the two will meet up again.

[Your Turn: Anyone else out there have a divided heart?]

[Photo Credit: Wikimedia]

Me vs. Infertility, IUI#1: Fail

imageThis was my first round of fertility treatments since my miscarriage in October. Clomid and IUI#1.

Fail.

I can’t say I’m surprised. Let’s just say that we didn’t follow the instructions to the letter (although the doc assured me we were fine), but we did the best we could. This time around, it just wasn’t enough.

The procedure itself was simple enough. Took about 20 minutes, beginning to end, and I went back to work. Kinda weird – teaching after that, but whatever. I wasn’t going to go home and take a nap.

I admit I was hopeful – when I got pregnant last time, it was my first Clomid treatment, without an IUI. But, I wasn’t crushed when I got my period.

And I wasn’t last month either.

Or the month before that.

Disappointed for a moment, but not crushed.

Truth – we really want a baby. There’s no question. But I have to let this go. I can’t live on the emotional roller coaster that revolves around the TWW and whether or not we get a BFP. Just can’t do it anymore.

And the bottom-line truth-of-the-matter is that God has a plan for us and our baby, and He knows the timing it is going to happen. No amount of planning, scheming, crying, getting depressed, or ranting is going to change any of that. Even with all of our treatment, it is only going to happen when God wants it to happen.

So I can either wait miserably – or wait in faith and hope and go on with my life. I’m making a conscious, willful choice to choose the latter. I’m choosing peace. CHOOSING peace.

I just picked up my script after Zumba, and today I am back on Clomid, CD 3. And we’ll try again this month.

Man makes his plans…but God determines his steps.

Either I trust Him or I don’t.

I’m choosing trust.

NaBloPoMo: A Review

imageI’ve been off the grid for the past week – partly against my will (those thesis papers were holding me hostage) and partly from losing some steam.

I just finished the NaBloPoMo Challenge, and I honestly felt spent. I said to myself, ‘Katie, you’ve posted every day for a month. Take a day off. Just post tomorrow.’

Well, tomorrow turned into one more day. Then, another. Then another.

This has been the first bout of writing lethargy I’ve felt since I started blogging last summer. Dragging myself to the computer felt the same as dragging myself off the couch to exercise. The first time back on the horse again is the hardest, but Day 1 has to come sometime.

So, the challenge – post every day for a month.

Here’s my review of the whole experience as I interview myself:

What I Liked

The Challenge to Find Content: I genuinely liked being pushed to come up with interesting things to write. Some days, they weren’t necessarily long and substantial; some days, it was just a quote. But I sort of liked that there wasn’t really a backdoor if I didn’t ‘feel’ like posting. It forced me to the edges of my creativity. Knowing that I had to come up with something every day kept my eyes and mind open for new ideas. I felt like I was much more aware of what was going on around me than I normally am. Anything was potential material for a new blog post.

Pockets of Time to Blog: I found out that there really are other times and ways I could blog than what I had been doing. For instance, many days, I would use my lunch break at work to write a post. It might only be a rough draft, but I could get my ideas out. Then, when I got home, at least the bulk was done; all I had to do was clean it up, find a picture – bam. Done. Sometimes I would just write something quick from my phone, and that would count as a post. I realized I didn’t always need huge blocks of time to get something written and posted.

Therapy for My Perfectionism: When you are churning out a post a day, there is no time to obsess over every word. There were definitely posts I put out there knowing it wasn’t my absolute best. But, it was OK. It had to be. My site didn’t crash; people didn’t stop reading (as far as I know). I realized that not every post has to be perfect before it goes live. I would not adopt that concept as a rule of thumb, but it was somewhat freeing for me.

Real-Time Writing: I like the pressure to write about life or things going on in the world in real-time. A lot of times, something happens in my day that I want to write or comment on, but by the time I get around to it, the moment and the inspiration has passed. In posting every day, a lot of those ideas made it to the press that probably wouldn’t have if I wasn’t forced.

What I Didn’t Like

Lack of Interaction: Posting every day made it very hard to read other blogs, comment, and return comments. I don’t like that. I love the conversations that get started via blogs, and I didn’t like feeling that I was missing that part. I didn’t get to follow up with new followers or commenters and read their blogs. I missed reading with regularity my favorite blogs. With posting every day, I just couldn’t keep up with any of that (I still have a handful of comments I haven’t responded to. Still. Shame.). I don’t like to think that maybe some of my relationships on here suffered or that maybe I lost some momentum in that area.

All-Consuming: Doing this challenge didn’t leave a lot of time for much else. I went to work, tutored or had meetings after school, made dinner, cleaned up, blogged, went to bed. There really wasn’t any exercising, quality time with my husband during the week – no time for really much of anything. I felt like I was trying to squeeze my life in around blogging. Ordinarily, I have pretty good boundaries – but I did get swept up in the challenge (If I committed to do it, then I was doing it). Other things in my life suffered and took a backseat. Not ideal.

Lack of Social Media: I’m not a huge fan nor addict of social media, but I do like to find new blogs via Facebook, Twitter, Google+. I do my fair share of blog-stalking. In March, I was almost entirely absent. That didn’t necessarily hurt my numbers, but I do like to engage and return the favor when I can. At this point, I’m not overly concerned with having a social media presence, but I feel like this set me back a little.

Burn-Out: Yes, I did feel a little burnt out on writing when I finished. I wanted a break for a few days. And as I said before, it was hard to take the first step to get back into it again. Not only that, the burn-out may have cost me a paid writing opportunity. I was approached to write an article for another site, and getting my ideas together for that pitch got lost in this shuffle. I know. How stupid am I??? Keeping my fingers crossed that I didn’t lose my chance.

The Numbers

2: Number of days I missed out of 31

43: Number of new followers (I only counted new WordPress followers because, to me, they at least had to physically come to this site to follow. Twitter or FB followers technically can follow without ever being here).

1200: Number by which my page views increased this month. For January and February, I was holding right around 2400 per month. For March, I was about 3,600. For me, this is notable because, in January and February, I made a concerted effort to interact and network on social media, link-ups, blog groups, etc. In March, I did none of that (my blog is automatically linked to my FB and Twitter accounts, but I made no additional efforts). Posting every day did more for my monthly page views than interacting, networking or engaging in social media. Interesting.

30: Increase in my daily page views. My average had been about 88 views per day. It went up to 117.

This wasn’t about numbers for me, but I was curious to see the trends.

Would I Do This Again?
Not anytime soon. I loved writing and posting so frequently, but I just don’t have the time to invest right now. I knew March was going to be a busy month for me, so if I did this again, I might try during the summer.

Would I Recommend It?
Actually, yes, I would. I think it definitely stretches you as a writer, and I think you land on some new writing techniques, strategies and content that you might miss otherwise. Definitely worth the effort.

What Now?
Well, as stated, I can’t keep up with that kind of schedule. However, I would like to push myself a little more. Instead of posting 1-2 times a week, I’m going to aim for 4-5. I now know that it can be done.

Feedback?
I would love to hear your comments if you followed/read along at all last month. Anything stand out? Topics you liked or didn’t like? Was every day too much? Any and all comments/criticisms welcome!

OK, kids. I’m back on the grid. :)

[Photo Credit: Justin Russell]

The Bane of My Teaching Existence

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Yep. This right there. Grading papers. Thesis papers in particular. If there was any way I could justify trashing this assignment while maintaining my professional integrity, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

I know, I know… I’m shaping the future of America….I have the chance to prepare my students for all kinds of future excellence….

But I would just about sell my soul if I could make these papers go away.

So hard to expend that kind of mental energy after a long day of teaching. Especially when my husband is in the other room enjoying opening day baseball.

I know, you don’t have to say it- tough having these First World problems, right?

All right, signing off now to commence sucking it up.

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Brackets Officially Busted

Yeah, I’m out. Michigan was my last hope for my brackets staying relevant. But, my husband still has a chance for his at his pool at work. He still has Florida in. He only needs to win one more game next weekend to take it all.

Yeah, that win would be a nice dinner out for us.

Keeping my fingers crossed.

This was my first time doing brackets this year. Definitely fun. I’ll be back again next year.

Anyone’s brackets still alive???

How I Broke the News

image[I've been thinking about my last miscarriage a lot lately. Right now, I would have been about 33 weeks, less than 2 months from my due date. This is a post I wrote, but never published, on September 21st, 2013, just 2 days after I found out I was pregnant.]

“You’re home late. Did they make you stay??”

“No,” he responded in his usual, just-to-be-annoying brief-answer way.

“C’mon! You are 45 minutes late!”

“You didn’t even notice I got a haircut.”

Before I could apologize for not noticing the 2 cm he got removed from his hair in the 3 seconds since he walked in the door, he said, ‘You coming outside?’

“Yes,” pulling myself up from the couch, “I’m coming.”

This is our after-work, evening ritual for as long as the weather holds. It’s just an hour or two before sunset, and we sit in the backyard with a drink, the newspaper, and de-compress together. Sometimes we de-brief the day; sometimes we just sit in silence until one of us feels like talking.

Today, I was hoping it was a day we would have a ‘real’ conversation. There was something I needed to tell him, and finding the right moment and way to approach it was weighing on me. I wasn’t sure how long I could pretend nothing was on my mind (I am a horrible liar).

“So I sent Kara this email today…”

Kara is his friend from work with a desk nearby. “Hmm?”

“Dear Kara,” he says, motioning like he is typing on his computer, “How do you get any work done with all of the ‘chomp, chomp, chomp, crack, crack, crack’ reverberating incessantly in your ears all day?”

“Oh, no. You didn’t.”

“I did,” he said proudly. “How does anybody not hear all of the gum-snapping all day long and not want to kill someone?”

“Oh, gosh. What did she do?”

“Well, she marched right up to my desk and said, ‘Thank, J. I was doing fine until you pointed it out. Now that is all I hear.’”

Hmm. I can relate. Know just how she feels.

“So, anyway, I was talking to Chris…”

And it was probably about there that I started to tune out. I needed to think of a segue to what I had to tell. A cutesy idea from Pinterest just didn’t seem to be the right approach for this news.

He finished telling his story, and I nodded and said, ‘Mmm hmm,’ like I was tracking, and then we fell into a comfortable silence.

OK, Katie. Here is your chance. Now or never.

“So, do you remember what you said this morning when we prayed together?”

(We pray together every morning before I go to work…a short, quick one as I’m running out the door, but it works.)

“Same thing I always pray? ‘Dear Lord, let us have a good day, please help us to get pregnant, keep us safe.’”

“No, you didn’t say that this morning. You said, ‘Please help us to be pregnant.’”

“Ok, fine. Be pregnant.” He wasn’t following.

“Well, there is a big difference between ‘Please help us to get pregnant,’ and ‘Please help us be pregnant.’”

He shook his head, not understanding, as if to say, “Fine, you are an English teacher, but why are you making such a big deal over this?”

In response, I slid the pregnancy test across the patio table to him.

“Well, God answered your prayer.”

A slow smile spread across his face, no longer annoyed but slowly absorbing this new information.

We hugged, we prayed for our new little life, and we sat down again.

We were quiet. We both knew what was on each other’s mind.

“You sure? Any chance it’s wrong?”

“Not likely. There is more of a chance of a false negative [of which I had gotten 3 in the past week] than a false positive.”

“How are you feeling?”

“I’m okay. I’m a little nervous. I’ve scoured the Internet to try to find similar scenarios as mine. My hunch is that maybe I implanted late, and that is why the tests were negative.

“But I don’t want to get crazy. I mean, there are really only two options: either I will carry this baby to term, or I will miscarry. There is nothing I can do to make one happen and prevent the other.”

He nodded in agreement.

We had been down this road before. Our joy in this news was tempered by the sobering reality of what we had been through ten months ago: a positive test, and then from the first sonogram, negative news. It was all downhill from there. That time, we enjoyed our pregnancy for about a total of 14 days.

We understood the reality. No longer were we a green, naive, TTC couple.

But for that night, on an Indian Summer evening in September, we were pregnant. And we were happy.

And our smiles across the table were, for the first time in a long time, full of possibilities and hope.

[Photo Credit: Bob Butcher]