How the prosperity gospel ruined my peace, and other stories | [Unpublished post from 2015].

I’m sharing this private unpublished post in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week. To all the people who are sick of society’s and the collective church’s bullshit about conceiving a child and what constitutes a family.

When I’m in crisis, I write. A lot. As a colleague says when there’s nothing else to say: words, words, feelings, words. I wonder what other writers write out of crisis or desperation. Most likely I’m not alone.

We’ve been trying to conceive a child for over a year, 16 months to be exact. In the time we’ve been trying, I have seen dozens of babies come into the lives of my friends and family. I’ve seen a friend get engaged, married, pregnant, and give birth in that amount of time. Time is relative, and while 16 months would be a very young age for a child, 16 months of hopefulness followed by disappointment followed by despair times 16 can make one age more than 16 months.

In this time, I’ve confided in several people. My mom, my sisters (one who is a mother and one who’s childfree, so I have my bases covered), and a handful of close friends who are all actually mothers. Maybe that was my first mistake, confiding in mothers. But I guess I was hoping for some encouragement that yes, this will happen. Some of my mother-friends conceived very quickly, and others took longer. I’ve learned more than I need to know about the female reproductive system and all the crazy things that can happen. I know way more than any sane person should know about childbirth, all kinds of childbirth. Quick, long, scary, natural, c-section.

Up until recently, all this information brought up in conversation felt normal to me. Childrearing is something that affects nearly all women, right? I was brought up to believe that one day I’d have children, and even through my 20’s (I’m on the cusp of 30) while we were still preventing, I always had this future family in my mind’s eye, albeit still far away.

I never thought we’d have a problem conceiving. We’re healthy, we stay fit by working out and running, we eat relatively healthy. It was a given in my mind that we’d have children biologically our own. To be honest, I never considered another possibility. That is, until a year had passed with not so much as a faint line on a pregnancy test and I realized just how long this journey could be.

First there’s bloodwork and an ultrasound, and after that there’s fertility meds that make you ovulate better or “stronger” or whateverthefuck my doctor called it. They made me crazy. So I stopped after one month. Through all my “research” (I use that term lightly because I actually am a scholar-teacher-researcher so I know not to play around with that term that so many others use blithely, ugh) I determined that I’d ask my doctor for a hysterosalpingography, basically a test where they shoot radioactive dye through my tubes to see if they’re blocked. Because if they’re blocked, no egg can get through no matter how “strong” the ovulation is. Thus, no baby can be formed.

My doctor was hesitant to approve this test because there were no other signs that this might be the problem. That’s the kicker though with blocked tubes – there are generally no symptoms. But, I got the test approved and to satiate my own logical and perhaps morbid curiosity, I’ll schedule this test soon.

And now I actually can schedule this test because I just started spotting this morning. This means that MY PERIOD IS COMING (Game of Thrones style). The test is also know to sometimes “clean things out” which can apparently result in increased fertility. The ironic part is that my husband will be gone for work during my fertile time this month, so joke’s on us.

The very unfortunate thing is that past this test, things get very invasive and very expensive, fast. At the beginning of this, we drew our line in the sand that no, we would not be doing IUI (intrauterine insemination) or IVF (in vitro fertilization). We might do the fertility meds. Which I did do, but the side effects made it clear I’d not be doing it again.

So. We’re almost at the end of what we’re willing to try, and with continued failed cycles with like I said, not so much as a faint eensy teensy line, we’re at the end of what we’re willing to try emotionally. I am for sure. My poor husband watches me every month get so disappointed to the point of ugly cry. Every. Month. Times sixteen.

We’ve been discussing this idea of living our lives without children of our own. Now, read that sentence again. It seems more than logical, right? This is not our second cycle and we’re throwing in the towel. This is over a year of heartache with no return on our emotional investment. Now, you tell that sentence to someone and most people lose their minds. Avail yourselves of the following list of things people have said when I mention this possibility:

  1. “Don’t give up yet!”
  2. “What else have you tried?”
  3. “My sister/mom/friend/cousin-twice-removed tried for over a year and then when they stopped trying, they got pregnant!”
  4. “You guys are too amazing of a couple for God not to bless you with children!”
  5. “I just know that God will provide a family for you, whether it’s your kids or adopted kids.”
  6. “Do you think taking the pill for so long is affecting your fertility now?”

Please see below for reactions and honest-to-goodness truth.

Giving up is not necessarily a bad thing. Insanity (or stupidity, or both) is doing the same thing over and over and getting the same result. Uhhhh. That sounds a lot like what we’ve been doing.

Well, we haven’t tried having sex. Maybe we should do that? /s In all seriousness, people want to help us “fix” our “problem”. That’s a nice intention, but if you’re not my doctor, please don’t go there. Believe me, we’ve tried pretty much anything you can think of. I’ve peed on ovulation sticks, charted my cycles (most people would consider this trying) and I’ve also just been a regular woman who’s sexually attracted to my husband and had sex whenever I’ve felt like it. We’ve gone on vacation, spent money on fancy dinners and wine… anything to relax or “not try”. And to boot, “not trying” is not as simple as you think. When for the past year you’ve had sex to make a baby (and for other reasons….) you can’t not try when you’re not using protection. The other thing about this comment is that no one talks about their aunt/sister/friend who doesn’t get pregnant after “not trying”. So stop. STAHP.

I’ve really wanted to believe those words said in love. But you know what? Moses was pretty damn amazing and he never got to see the Promised Land. Read the Bible… there are stories upon stories of disappointment. Some of them found peace. I actually have been on my journey of finding peace, praying for peace about this. My prayer is not, “God, give me children or I’ll die!”; it’s “God, whatever the outcome, give me peace and direction.”

Please don’t claim to know what God wants for our family (read: two people constitute a family). Don’t attempt to project on to me the result of what you refuse to see: this isn’t workingMy junk is not working. This is not a faith issue; this is most likely a biological issue. I don’t need to petition God for children if that is actually not in His plan. When talking to the friend who said this, she literally could not understand the possibility that maybe we would live without children. Granted, I’d said  something about maybe adopting one day. But that was after I qualified that by saying, “If [having biological children] is not what the plan is, I can live with that. I just need to move on and heal and be whole before I’d consider adoption. I don’t want to do it out of desperation.”

I know people with their comments are trying to be helpful. I totally appreciate that. And yes, I’m coming from a place of sensitivity about this topic, especially when the majority of these comments are from women who were able to relatively easily become mothers.

But please don’t use pseudo-theology to quell my fears or try to make me rethink things. I’m emotional, yes, but I’m also as rational, logical, and analytical a human being as there ever was, and I know my body and limitations best. I know that continuing on this path would most likely render me sunken into a corner of my couch, depressed and hating my body and life. I can’t do that, not again. If this is what it will be, that I can accept that. My husband and I can accept that and live a fulfilled, happy life where we actually do contribute to the next generation by our relationships with biological and honorary nieces and nephews, with my international students, etc.

Having biological children is a de-facto imperative of the Church, and it needs to stop. Not everyone is meant to have their own, and just because they can’t have their own doesn’t mean they need to run off to China or Korea or Ethiopia and adopt kids.  If you’re called to do that, great. But please don’t use your prosperity gospel to ruin my peace, especially when I’ve almost found it.

Saying 'no' means saying more

I’m sure you’ve heard it said that ‘no’ is a complete sentence. Usually you’re told this if you’re not sure if you should or can do something and the person you’re talking to wants to encourage you to put your foot down and say ‘no’.

I don’t think our society is there yet, to hear only the word ‘no’. People want explanations, reasons, negotiations. And in some aspects it makes sense: we’re kind of built on those things. Early in the formation of this country, we did say no, to the King of England, to the Church, to the two that were inextricably tied together. But I think we’ve lost something along the way.

In the year of 2020 so far, I have made it a resolution to say ‘no’ to things, events, attitudes, situations, that do not advance my growth as a person. This may sound individualistic, but I really believe it’s in our best interest as members of society to model what we want to see in the world.

I want to see people who are content (not necessarily always happy), satisfied (with what they have); rested, not ragged.

I want to see my fellow teachers in the profession for years to come instead of dropping out of the ranks due to burnout, overworking, endless fruitless and sometimes abusive interactions with parents, lack of administrative support, and guilt tied to taking a day off for physical or mental health. Statistics have shown for years that the attrition rate of teachers is close to 50% – think about it. Half of all teachers leave the profession in the first five years. Is that what we want for our children? Teenagers?

I want to see my fellow congregants at church happy to be involved in their chosen ministries, satisfied in their own spiritual lives that they can contribute to others without becoming weary. I want to see Christ followers who have the time to delve into the word, into prayer, into meditation or contemplation. I want to see people who truly bring Christ into and outside of the church building, serving and loving everyone.

But it is obvious, especially with recent events, that society is not there yet. Will it take a global pandemic to get us there? Maybe. Honestly, I’m hoping. I hope after this, and even throughout, people will begin to say ‘no’.

This takes a fortitude and a level of critical thinking that doesn’t occur when you say ‘yes’. Most of the time, people say ‘yes’ to all sorts of things without first discovering the terms and conditions – how long is the commitment, how toxic might the relationship become, what are all the subordinate tasks of what I’m agreeing to do. We say ‘yes’ to please people (see my post on that here) and because our own self-confidence isn’t built up yet.

And then we falter. We run ourselves ragged and can’t sleep and have high levels of anxiety and become more susceptible to illness. All because we did not take the time, or were never taught, how to critically evaluate a situation and our place and role in it.

Therefore, saying ‘no’ means saying more. At least to ourselves. It means more direct communication. So, fellow American, stop with the “I don’t like confrontation” attitude. Saying ‘no’ does not mean that you are being ‘mean’ or ‘confronting’ someone. If someone is bold enough to ask you to join them in whatever task, adventure, or attitude, then it’s well within your right to ‘confront’ them by saying ‘no’. And you don’t need to explain yourself further.

However, to that last point, you do need to do some work on the inside to get you there. So don’t answer right away. Sleep on it. Think it through. Talk it out with someone. Pray about it. And after that’s done, still all you need to say is that one word.

Since our society is in the very beginning stages of hearing the word ‘no’, there will be opposition. You will probably be going up a creek, with or without a paddle. People might give you a sideways glance, or if they’re so bold and confrontational, send you packing for a guilt trip.

That’s okay – just leave the packing to them and the ticket on the table.

Ash Wednesday : Spirit

Passages from the Common Lectionary :

Psalm 103, Joel 2:1-2, 12-17, Isaiah 58:1-12, 2 Cor. 5:20b-6:10, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

My yearly journey of reflection through Lent continues for the third year in a row. I think last year I fell off the wagon.. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised. Faith has proved to be a hard road to travel in recent years.

Lent will always and forever be an even more somber time than it usually is. Two years ago I was in the middle of Lent when my grandmother died. I really learned what ‘from dust you were created; to dust you shall return. Conversely, I also saw through new eyes what it meant to be resurrected in Jesus. My grandmother’s faith became more real to me in her death.

Today’s word is spirit. Tonight I’m thinking about what is said in yoga, that our spirit is our breath and vice versa. I like that thought, especially when we talk about death. When the breath is gone, so is the spirit. There cannot be spirit without breath. God created man and breathed into him, and so man was incomplete and unalive until that moment.

March 23 | Grief

Grief

How appropriate that today’s word is ‘grief.’ I took a little hiatus from my daily posts (but not from Bible reading) because life got a little topsy-turvy after my grandmother died two weeks ago today. I went to Illinois for the funeral and time with family and then when I got back, we had family from my husband’s side visit for the week. They left this morning, so before I travel out to Seattle to see one of my sisters, I have a couple days to regroup and gather thoughts (and do laundry).

My grandmother Jane was a lovely lady. I know this, and my family knows this, but what I found out by standing in the receiving line at the visitation is that everyone who knew her knows this. For almost two hours I introduced (and re-introduced) myself as ‘the oldest granddaughter Elizabeth’ to people who played cards with her and my grandpa, people who attended to church with her, people who cooked with her in the church kitchen, people who worked their land, and I’m pretty sure that her entire floor of the retirement home came to pay their respects. I wish I could have recorded all the nice things people said about her in that line.

Her full name was Eleanor Jane, but she always went by Jane. Eleanor and Jane mean respectively ‘bright shining one’ and ‘God’s gracious gift,’ and let me tell you, she embodied her name. My husband and I had our children’s names picked out for years, but I told him the day of the funeral that if we ever had a girl, we would name her Eleanor Jane in place of the name we’d picked out. He said he wouldn’t even argue with that. I lightheartedly told him that was a good decision.

My grandmother left an amazing legacy of faith that was quietly and steadfastly lived out. During the memorial service the pastor read her statement of faith that she wrote in a Bible study class, and in it she said that when she was a young girl, she went to church when she could, with family members, with the neighbors. She loved to be in church. She always encouraged my faith, and I tried to go to church with her when I was in town, especially after my grandfather passed away.

She didn’t suffer. I’m happy for that. I’m also overjoyed for her present victory, but so overwhelmed at times with grief that this world (and I) lost a bright, loving, giving soul. God gave her an earthly vessel for 87 years. That, coupled with heartache, loss, and joy, makes for a long full life. I can only hope to come close to that.

I’m grieving still. My family is grieving. My dad has now lost both of his parents. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers. It’s especially hard when I want to call her to tell her about our recent visit with family, or about my upcoming trip to the West Coast. My heart aches when I realize that I can no longer speak with her.

But I don’t think I’ve ever understood our eternal destiny in Jesus more until she passed. I have never had such a sense of the truth and power of the Resurrection, nor have I ever had such a concrete moment in life attached to the Lenten season.

The message at church this past Sunday talked about how disciples suffer with Jesus. Our pastor, just hours before church began, lost his brother to a long battle with cancer. In the midst of that, he spoke about how we can’t have light without darkness. We can’t have the true and full joy of the Resurrection on Sunday without the tragic and sometimes infuriating events of this holy week. The timing of all these events is not happenstance; it’s the mysterious workings of God, perhaps to remind us where we’ve come from and where we’re going, and what our purpose is while we’re here. There is darkness, death, grief, and sin in this world. But Jesus has already overcome it. We can have freedom and resurrection with Him.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Defending our faith

Yesterday I was enjoying a book and the late summer sunshine on campus when two girls approached me. The conversation went like this….

“Hi! We have a Bible study here on campus and we were going around asking people to see what they know about the Bible. Do you believe the Bible is true?”

“Yes, I do!” In my life, the Bible is 100% truth, infallible, and the guide for living our lives and a way in which God speaks to us. The Holy Spirit brings the God-inspired words to life.

“What if we told you that in the Bible it says….”

For an hour we went through the Bible together (it was the New International Version; I asked) and these girls tried to convince me of things not accepted by mainstream Protestant doctrine by using Scripture out of context. I asked them if they had looked up certain things in the Greek or Hebrew, and they told me that “Well, no, but it’s pretty much the exact same thing in English.” While I agree that we have some amazing translations of the Bible in English, in order to get the absolute entire picture, we need to cross-reference these verses with the original languages in which they were written. Even comparing other English translations can shed light onto tough passages of Scripture.

I’m by no means a Bible expert. However, just in the past few years, I really started studying more and learning how to debate (thanks Petr and Gabi for your Christ-centered debate group!!). By God’s grace, I stumped these girls on the issues they were trying to convince me of. They were like robots; they had many verses highlighted with Post-It strips indicating where to go next if the person being interviewed posed a certain question.

My purpose for writing this is not to nit-pick every issue we talked about, nor is it to bash other people or denominations. It’s to illustrate how important it is for us to know what we believe, why we believe it, and where to find it in the Bible.

If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything. Even a Christian who attends church and reads the Bible can be swayed by tactics such as these. Do you know where you stand on issues such as creation? Sin? Salvation? Heaven? Hell? The divinity of Jesus? The oneness of the Trinity?

Debating these issues can get heated and sometimes offensive, but I thank God for the grace He gave me and I hope these girls could see what I was showing them out of love. Above all, this is what is important:

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you

to give the reason for the hope that you have.

But do this with gentleness and respect..” I Peter 3:15

and

“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed,

but of those who believe and are saved.” Hebrews 10:39

Fairy tales and four-days

I’m thankful that today, the day after a fantastic weekend, was not a let-down like so many days after holiday weekends are. We had a FABULOUS weekend!

For starters, we’ve been watching the first season of “Once Upon a Time”, a show based on all the fairy tales we learned as children. I admit, I haven’t even seen the full lengths of Snow WhiteAlice in Wonderland or Pinocchio. I was more of a Lion King and Beauty and the Beast kind of girl. And I didn’t even really know other versions besides Disney existed until I took a storytelling class at Bradley. Anyway, the show is good and wholesome. No sex, no gory violence. We finished the first season last night.

So, onto the weekend:

Friday – I had to nanny (work? babysit?) all day. These kids wear a girl out! I haven’t made it to “Queen Babysitter” status (the last babysitter they absolutely LOVED is sitting on her throne in Kansas), but I’m doing fine. 😉 We cleaned out the horse pen, played Army, ate MRE’s in the “valley” and jammed out to CMT. Good times. This city girl has at the very least country music going for her.

I will ride by the end of the summer!!

After “work” (hard to believe I get paid for having FUN!) I met up with Aaron and some leaders and kids from our youth at church to do some paintball. So fitting that I played Army earlier in the day… I was training! Ha!

I didn’t last two minutes.

Saturday – We got up early, picked up Jess, and went to the farmers’ market in Sunland Park. Honestly, it was a bust. Aaron got some jerky and chow chow (new to me!) but there was next to no produce. I really wanted some tomatoes! Hopefully my plant will produce some good ones.

We headed to the church picnic at Veterans Park in our side of town. It was nice to not have to drive across the mountain for a church function… the picnic was specifically for people in the northeast part of town. It was a great time! Aaron got sunburned from playing volleyball. I played for a few minutes and then ended up chilling in the shade. Thankful for great church friends!!

Sunday – We went to Cloudcroft for the day. I’d been looking forward to this trip since we decided to do it a couple weeks ago. It was nice to have a Sunday off of our normal responsibilities. Cloudcroft is a little mountain town (population 750) in the mountains of the Lincoln National Forest.

We got there mid-morning and checked out an arts/crafts fair. We went in and out of all the little shops downtown. We ate lunch at a diner… how I miss diners!! We hiked off our lunch on a short 2-mile trail. We were hoping for a more strenuous hike, but the Osha Trail worked out just fine.

Monday – We got up and ran 5 miles each for wear blue:run to remember around post. It felt good! I really pushed when it came to the last mile. We ran some errands around post and then stayed in for the rest of the day. I made a big breakfast when we got home. We spent the rest of the day doing laundry, packing and finishing up Once Upon a Time”.

Today we were up at 3:45. I took Aaron to the airport (25 days for this TDY and counting!) I decided to go ahead and run before “work” on the west side, since I’m doing the Runner’s World Run Streak (run at least one mile a day between Memorial Day and Independence Day). I. FELT. AWESOME. 3 miles in 27 minutes!!! That’s unheard of for me in El Paso. It was crisp and cool (well, probably 60 degrees), the sun wasn’t up over the mountains yet, and I just clicked them off. I ran with music, which is something I haven’t done in at least a week, and that kept me motivated. I felt joy when running, so much that I think I even smiled. Of course, when you have this ahead of you, how can you not? Trees, panoramic views, fields and JOHN DEERE TRACTORS!

I now have several days before I need to nanny again, so I’m going to get a TON of homework done despite the week extension for one of my classes. I have to get a bunch done before mah BEST FRIEND AMELIA COMES TO VISIT!!! WOOHOO!!!

April 25

This is my first post as a 26-year-old! Somehow the birthdays lost their ring after 21…. However, my 26th birthday brought me this lovely piece from Aaron…

And a totally awesome hair day… This won’t happen again until maybe Christmas or something.

I’ve logged 11 miles this week so far! I took Missy to McKelligon Canyon on Monday morning and we walked about 2 miles. She did better than walking around our neighborhood because there were less distractions. The car ride, however, was not so great. After dinner I went out and ran 2 miles in the neighborhood. So many people were out walking their dogs and playing outside. After 7, the sun’s behind the mountain and therefore not burning my flesh off. The temp goes down and it’s perfect “summer evening” weather. In April.

Yesterday I met Jess at the gym and did 4 miles of intervals, all uphill. Man, I kicked that treadmill in the butt. Later yesterday instead of driving to her house for dinner (it’s only 1.3 miles), I walked.

Today I rested. I’ve been watching my carb and sugar intake. I am trying to eat less refined sugars and carbs and more protein. It’s kind of my own version of “eating clean”. On my way home from “work” I stopped at the gas station to get gas and totally resisted the urge to get DQ. Go me. Even after just a week of watching my refined sugars and carbs, I want it less.

This whole waiting-to-have-kids thing is making me be waaay more accountable to getting and staying fit. One of the big reasons I lost weight in the first place was to get healthy before we had kids. Well, now that we’re waiting longer than we expected, I need to keep up a healthy lifestyle for longer. I want to run and workout when I’m pregnant, have a healthy delivery, and bounce back as soon as possible after giving birth. Anyway, I try not to think about it too much as it’s in the future, but it’s definitely a motivator for staying healthy.

This is kind of random, but… I’M GOING TO HONDURAS!!! I went to the meeting at church the other night. We’re going at the end of August to help with an orphanage and school we support as a church. I’ve had the itch to travel internationally for.. well.. since my last trip (Honduras in 2008), so I’m really excited. (I never got the chance to visit Aaron in Korea….silly Army… and $1700 plane tickets.)

Anyway. Life is good. I can’t imagine going back to such a stressful job… ever. Unless it were absolutely necessary. Missy and I only have a week left to party like there’s no tomorrow before Husband Man comes home… we might even do some yoga or POP Pilates.