To my little girl.

We had names for you both.

One of you was going to be Dagny Elayne, the first name after Dagny Taggart of Atlas Shrugged, a real go-getter with a kickass personality; the second name was after a character in your daddy’s all time favorite book series, Wheel of Time. To be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of Dagny when your father suggested it. But over several years, it grew on me. Together your names would mean “new light”. Perfect, I thought. Leah Beth gave me a little pair of pink linen shorts with a bow at the waist and told me, “These are for little Dagny” because she knew that that was going to be your name. I don’t have those shorts anymore.

At your great-grandmother’s funeral, I decided then that I wanted to change your name to Eleanor Jane, after her. Your daddy didn’t even mind – he loved her too. I always loved old, classic names. This is one thing I agreed with your Mimi on – someday, a little girl was going to grow up and be a professional or doctor or something with a nameplate outside her office, or have her name read at a graduation ceremony, so she should have a really strong name. I totally agreed with that. I thought it would be so poetic, if a little tragic, if I had conceived you the same month your Grammie Jane passed away – I saw it as her spirit living on. She would have been so happy.

I saw you in my dreams. I don’t remember seeing your face in every dream, but I knew that you had bright blue eyes, just like mine. My whole life they’ve been my claim to fame (ha) and I wanted to pass them to you. I know with these eyes you’d be an honest, caring, compassionate child. I saw your long brown hair, a few inches above your waist, a rich brown like your daddy’s. All I ever imagined is that my daughter would have more beautiful hair than I ever did, thick and unwieldy. And now my hair’s going gray. My theory is that we tried so long to have you that all the stress started making my hair gray.

When you grew to be a little girl, I was going to make sure I read you all of my favorite books. And I’d read these to your brother too – Goodnight, Moon; Are You My Mother?; Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone; Little House on the Prairie; A Wrinkle in Time – we’d sit on your little bed under a fuzzy blanket and read by the lamp next to your bed. You’d be curious and not be able to wait until the next day to read a new chapter. You’d be a bookworm, just like your daddy, and have shelves and shelves full of books.

Your father and I always discussed how important it was for kids to try lots of new things. We wanted to make sure you stayed physically healthy and meet new friends, so we would have loved for you to join a local tee-ball team, or do karate, or participate in an community art class. We’d also want you to be involved in something musical – not because we were going to be overbearing parents, but because we both were musically inclined and wanted you to enjoy music as well. Maybe your little hands would have graced a violin, or clutched drumsticks. Maybe you would have sung in a choir or had a solo. Maybe you would have been able to just play any song you hear, and not be like me where I can’t memorize anything. I never would have been mad about you innocently plinking away on the piano that was your great-great-grandmother’s if you had wanted to.

I was so enamored with you as a little girl. To be honest, I never pictured you being older than 4 or 5. I never pictured your wedding (if you wanted to get married), or your children (if you wanted to be a mother). I never pictured you talking back to me as a tween. I only pictured the sweet memories we would have had. I would have been kinder and more patient than your Mimi. I would have let you keep your hair long when you were little, if you wanted to.

I would have taught you how to spell and write before you entered kindergarten. I was unsure about putting you in preschool or pre-kindergarten, because you know, I am a teacher and would have made sure you were ready. I kept aprons for you to help me cook in the kitchen – and I wouldn’t have gotten mad at you for spilling something on the clean floor.

I had a dream one time where I saw you, face to face, and you, Dagny (Eleanor), were just the sweetest little girl. I told you in my dream as I held you close to hug you and pick you up, “I wanted you so badly. We both wanted you so much.” That’s it. That’s all we said. I woke up on my side of the bed with your daddy asleep next to me, and cried silently into my pillow. I don’t know if he knows this. But I cried.

I also wanted to give you my maiden name as a middle name. I didn’t want to hyphenate it though. I liked how your name looked written out – Dagny Elayne (or Eleanor Jane) – and I was going to call you Dag for short.

And now I have to say goodbye before I even get to say hello. It’s a cruel world out there, sweetheart, and even though I was a good little girl, and then a (mostly) good teenager, and then became a good responsible woman, I still never got to welcome you into our life. Dagny, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s how life is. You don’t get to pick and choose – sometimes you have to deal with whatever comes.

But Dagny Elayne, I have to let you go. I’m sorry. Mommy is sorry. Daddy is sorry. Mommy has to let you go and let your spirit be free.

A bigger promise

I have failed miserably at writing here every day. But I do that some thoughts that have emanated from my daily devotional on the YouVersion Bible App.

The current plan I’m going through now with a friend is all about devotions that speak to real-life. Really, that’s what I look for in any devotion. But one day so far struck me in particular.

Waiting is a tough thing. It can try the most patient person, and the type of waiting can really make that period of time hard to bear.  In the midst of it, we have to remember God’s faithfulness to fulfill his promises.

This is a noble thing – and we should take hold of it, remembering God’s promises. But the way it was presented in the devotional text was not pleasant. It discusses different life events that can cause us to wait or question God’s promises, including infertility:  “When there’s no pitter-patter of little feet, remember Genesis 30:22: ‘Then God remembered Rachel; he listening to her and enabled her to conceive.'”

This sounds like a nice thought in theory, but I think it’s where much of the ‘Christian narrative’ says that if you just pray enough, or wait enough, or remember the promises enough, God will give you what you desire. That the happy ending is coming. And I’m sorry to say this in case someone hasn’t heard it yet, but sometimes it’s just not going to happen.

I can’t tell you how strong my desire was (is…?) to have our own biological children. It was (is…? still working this out) immense. Overwhelming, all-consuming. Even as recent as a few weeks ago, I would be bee-bopping along in my actually really great life, then all of a sudden see a little girl with dark brown curls marching down the hall with her adorably too-big backpack and BAM. I was hit with that desire and emptiness that is sometimes so strong it could knock me to my feet in tears. I wish I were being dramatic.

So, considering our infertility, according to this idea in the devotional, did we not pray enough? Wait long enough? We have to look at this promise of God in context, as it’s specific to one woman, one situation in all the history of infertility.

The attitudes and apparent words of reassurance around the subject of infertility need to change, not just in the world, but especially in the church. There are probably millions of hurting women that instead of finding understanding and solace in the church when they confide their fears or feelings about their infertility are met with these one-off quotations of Scripture that really do nothing but cause more pain, at least for me.

We need a bigger promise. More than just God will enable us to conceive, because as I’m a first-hand witness to, sometimes it doesn’t happen (and maybe there is not some mysterious reason.. it could just be), and I firmly believe that our failure to procreate has nothing to do with our level of faith.

My promises from God have to be bigger to encompass and devour my fears, my emptiness, my sorrow over children lost, however intangible those children may be. My promises from God have to ensure that He holds me, He knows me, He loves me and has important and impactful work for me to do that does not involve being a biological mother or spreading my ‘maternal instinct.’

I will quote another part of the devotional that I found to be the most comforting: “When hope is scarce, remember Luke 24:6-7: ‘He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you,… ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'” That is the bigger promise. That is the promise.

Hope never hurts.

The journey of infertility, at least for me, is not a test for my body to do biologically what it’s designed to do. I know that sounds counterintuitive. It’s a test of faith, much like other journeys we all go through.

I’m not making light of this journey. It’s difficult. It’s uncertain (especially if your diagnosis is “unexplained infertility”.. so scientific, right?). It’s lonely. When you get right down to it, it’s a stripped-to-the-bone roller coaster of elation, hope, disappointment, and depression.

In the year and a half we’ve been dealing with this journey, I’ve experienced all of those emotions. This summer was especially difficult. The baby announcements and family pictures posted by friends and family just did not relent. Even after cutting down my time on social media, I still felt the sting of comparison just thinking about how I did not have something that I, we, desperately want.

So I pushed it down. I threw my hands up in the face of hope and actually told my husband that we should just not have kids. Maybe that would be easier. Maybe that would be less painful. Then I could continue in my profession with few interruptions. Because DINK (double income no kids). Right, because money and trips and careers and things would fill in the gap in my heart for biological children, a perfect alchemy of genes from my husband and me.

Looking back on the long, hot, seemingly hopeless and emotional summer, I realize I wanted to not have kids so I could spare myself and my husband from the pain that is lost hope. I was tired of keeping my circle of family and friends updated, and wading through their comments, all well meaning, but just a real-life reminder of the place I was in. I was tired of being vulnerable, of being on the verge of tears more often than not, of pouring my heart out during worship and prayer times. I was rife with grief about asking over and over. Even though we continued to be faithful in attending church, I found myself pulling back and not wanting to get close to people because of the possibility of having to talk about this.

After vacation, I posted this entry, privately, and started really getting serious about training for a half marathon. I started back to work, no different physically than when I left in May. But something changed in my heart. I had that desire again for my own children, and I had the wherewithal to keep going. God has started to heal my heart.

In late July, my parents came to visit and towed a U-Haul carrying my most precious worldly possession: my great-grandmother’s piano. I started playing a little, and my hands flew over the keys as if we’d never been apart. That was part of the healing. I started playing keys and singing alto on the worship team at my church, and there I’ve been discovering more healing.

I’ve been able to talk to a few more people about this journey, and for once I don’t stiffen with offense with people ask me, So, do you guys want kids? Instead, I answer truthfully that Yes, we do. We’ve been trying for awhile and nothing yet. But we have hope.

More often than not, people have a similar story. Maybe they were never able to have their own children. Maybe they are suffering from secondary infertility. Maybe they’re considering the long arduous road to fostering or adoption.

This journey that the enemy has tagged to steal, kill, and destroy our hearts and hope actually can be a bright spot in the world for people with like circumstances to come together and support each other. And that’s why I’m “coming out” with our infertility. Not because I want pity or accolades or any of that. But because there’s no reason for it to be secret. It’s not shameful; we did nothing wrong. It’s an unfortunate circumstance, but in the midst of it I’ve found peace and hope and contentment, and I want others to know that they can, too.

I won’t lie: I have wished that when I finally shared this, I would be pregnant and therefore have “overcome” infertility. I’ve been waiting to get some family pictures done (none since 2009) until I have a “baby makes three” announcement to show off as a physical reminder of our love.

Life goes on. We keep praying and hoping and pursuing answers to the “unexplained.” We cry, we grieve the children that we actually may never bear biologically. There is one thing that is for sure: I will come out of this journey with my faith intact. The loss of hope, the wound of depression, the panic of anxiety, none of these things will take away my faith in an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God, who through it all, refines us to make us more like Christ.

And that is the mercy for every mile of the journey.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because he cares for you.

I Peter 5:6-7

The year of big girl panties: a recap.

My presence on my blog has been scant recently. I come to my laptop tonight from my sewing table. I always seem to think better when I’m sewing… my mind is free and it wanders while my hands are still busy. I’m so fidgety, just like my grandpa.

I doubt I’ll be posting much over the next few weeks; I finish up the semester this coming week, in a little over a week we fly to Illinois to spend Christmas with family, then we come back to Texas to go to the World Missions Summit in Fort Worth. I hope the last few weeks of 2012 go slowly and we’re able to enjoy them as much as possible.

So, the title. In the military-spouse world, when we talk about getting through “grown-up” things by gritting our teeth and putting our whiny ways aside, we call that “putting our big girl panties on”. A silly metaphor, maybe, but you can’t wear Disney Princess underwear forever. At least, I haven’t found any in my size…

This was a year of gritting my teeth and getting through things. It wasn’t a horrible year; I wouldn’t even say it was a bad year. But there were a lot of tough situations that have forced me to mature (we all need that, right??) and trust God more. That’s a generalization though, for sure.

Two-thousand twelve started out with me working a job that I severely disliked. Severely. Life is short, and in my 26 years I like to say that I’ve learned how to make sound decisions, so I decided to quit. I barely had another “job” lined up… nannying. It was enjoyable enough, but definitely something I wouldn’t want to do long term. I love kids. I love other people’s kids, for the most part. But I don’t have kids yet, so it’s safe to say that taking care of other people’s kids when I haven’t yet decided to go down that road just isn’t fun sometimes. However, on a farm in southern New Mexico, I finally learned what was important in life and became content in my situation.

I experienced a couple more firsts this year, namely the death of a close loved one, and the absence of my husband during this time. Actually, the absence of my family during the few days before I flew to Illinois. I would not relive those days or wish them on anyone. Never in my life had I been so anxious and desperate that I couldn’t even muster an appetite, and if you’ve been around me for even a day you know that I love food! It was awful. I am very lucky that I was able to go home and say a proper goodbye.

This year was also the first that my husband and I have gone on separate trips out of the country. While I would have loved to have him with me in Honduras, and I would have loved to go with him (sorry, still have to be vague about where!), it was a good experience to travel on my own. It only feeds my desire to travel somewhere every few months!

And as an ongoing event of 2012, I’ve finally become happy(ier) with my body and also with my fitness and eating habits. I haven’t been tracking my calories or paces for awhile now, and it’s freeing. Having no expectations of my paces makes good races and paces that much sweeter. I was just getting so bogged down with looking at my watch constantly and figuratively beating myself up over it, and then getting on the scale and beating myself up about those numbers. Damn numbers. Done. Done done done.

One of the most freeing aspects of 2012 was that I’ve finally, finallyFINALLY surrendered my baby fever. We, my husband and I, came to the conclusion that we are not ready for children yet, despite what people say. What do people really know anyway? They just want to oogle and stalk pictures of your family on Facebook; they’re not thinking of the sleepless nights, poopy diapers, and expenses that come with having children. We want to be a little selfish for awhile still. We want to finish degrees and fly on planes to cool places and just be us for awhile longer. Our family is complete the way it is now. It’s taken me awhile to be okay with that, but now I am. This pretty much sums it up:

my dog
Thanks, Jess!

…but really. My dog is awesome.

2012 was absolutely 100% essential for my development as an adult. I wouldn’t do it again, but I wouldn’t change it either, at least the things that weren’t outside of my control. 2013 will see a subsequently 27-year-old Elizabeth with her big girl panties on, guns a-blazin’. Strange picture…. but whatever. 😉

Committed…

…to a  life of following the Lord wherever He leads.

…to selling our possessions and going across continents and oceans.

…to giving generously of our finances in order to further His kingdom and show our obedience.

…to raising and educating our children to love people in a foreign land if we are so called.

…to adopting children from a foreign land if we are so called.

…to being content with what we have.

…to being thankful when we have what we need, even if it’s not in excess.

…to storing our treasures in heaven, because then our hearts will follow.

…to literally dying for the Truth.

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I won’t say that we know for sure that we’ve received “the call”. What I will say is that we are willing to put aside the American dream-life that we’ve been planning for our family so that we can pick up and move halfway around the world. I won’t say that we know that we will be ministering to Muslims… but we are willing to take the Gospel there because there is a huge harvest waiting to be brought in. There are so many people in so many places who have little to no access for the Gospel.

I feel the way we are living life right now is in the center of God’s will. It’s seriously is the best place to be… physically, emotionally, spiritually, matrimonially. We are giving generously and sacrificially… we are content with what we’ve been blessed with… and we are working hard to pay off our debt.

We know that having some savings is important, but we’re not interested in building so much wealth that we don’t know what to do with it. What is the point of being a millionaire, really? Sure, your kids have a great inheritance and you can enjoy whatever material pleasures you want… but I only want to accumulate wealth so that I can bless others. I’m not saying this to sound “holier-than-thou” or whatever.. it’s just where my heart is right now.

Waiting to have children is really hard for me. I admit it. I go in stages of either being really happy for people or really jealous of people when I hear of their pregnancies. I’m in a continual stage of surrender. I know that our time will come someday, and I am committed to caring for whatever children God gives us, whether biological or adoptive. We’ve talked about having both… we’ve also talked about adopting all of our children. Really, I want to prepare my heart for whatever happens.

We’re committed to living dead. John 12:24: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains alone.” We must die to self, to selfish desires, fabricated plans, everything, in order to follow Christ fully.