Waiting on God…

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My mind has been resting lately on the sovereignty and goodness of God and what that looks like in my life.

So often Christians, myself highly included, acknowledge God’s power — but only in ways that profit ourselves.
“My God is so powerful, He provided money for this bill.”
“My God is so amazing, He blessed us with this child.”
“My God is so great, He… {fill in the blank}.”

God IS amazing and He DID do all of those things. But what happens when God seemingly stops answering our prayers? What happens when it feels like God is silent? Does God cease to be amazing and sovereign?
And why is it that we pray to God with so much entitlement?
(Job 2:10 – “Shall we receive good from God and not accept adversity?”)
What do we really deserve that God should give us?

The answer is: absolutely nothing. The fact that He sees our sinful hearts and actions and still gives us breath is in itself unbelievably gracious and loving.

These thoughts have been on my mind as I pray about our desire to have a child.

Before starting IVF, my heart was so bitter towards the Lord. I selfishly felt like it wasn’t fair that I had to go through this huge process and spend all this money when it felt like my friends and family would blink and get pregnant. I wondered often if God were punishing me or even what I could do to get God to answer my prayer.

I knew that the easiest response and the one that may have felt right in the moment would be to immediately say “Why, God?!?! You are the Creator and sustainer of LIFE. You could easily, in a second, create a life that we would cherish and love and honor You with. And do You even love us, God? If You do, why don’t You answer our prayers?!”

This response had definitely been forming in my mind throughout the IVF process when nothing seemed to be “going our way.” I kept wondering and worrying about how I would actually react when the end came. The Lord laid it on my heart to ask some women to pray for me in this area – that my response would be honoring and glorifying to God, no matter what.

When we got the call, of course my heart sank and there was so much grief and so many tears. But the tears were only of sadness, not bitterness. I had seen God’s hand throughout this whole process. Not one moment was out of His sovereign hand.
He knew that I needed to see Him differently. I needed to view His love differently. And in the moment of hearing a “no” to one request, another prayer was answered.

Our God has so much love for us. His desires for us are only for our good. How can I ever think otherwise?

I am so comforted that God sees our longing for a child and He feels our pain and sorrow. His power is not in the least bit limited, and I am excited to trust His plan and see what the future holds.

“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him…” Psalm 37:7a

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“Don’t be mad at me.”

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Editor’s Note: This post was written at my request by my sweet sister, Jessie Payne. I have seen her struggle with unnecessary guilt through her pregnancy and desire to build her own family. She and her husband, Drew, care so much for Brett and me and have been sensitive to us through every step in our journey.
This is a must read!

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I did not expect to be the first one to get pregnant. I was the big sister who had gotten married second, the one with corporate aspirations and a five-year plan. The one with a haphazard bodily cycle, who enviously watched her sister mark Day 28 on the calendar every single month.

I had grown up hearing horror stories of sterility, pregnancy nightmares and devastating miscarriages from my mother, aunts and cousins, and sternly reminded the part of my brain that longed for a tiny baby of my own that infertility was in my blood. I sympathized with my sister as she took negative pregnancy test after negative pregnancy test, reassuring her that we were undoubtedly in the same boat.

“Should we try to have a baby?” The question asked of my husband again, after three years of marriage, as we sat on the sofa together eating dinner. “It took mom five years to have me. I’ll be 30 by the time we have our first.”

A baby was not part of our five-year plan. But watching others’ struggles scared me – even more than the thought of childbirth. So we decided to throw caution to the wind and “try,” even though my faith was very small.

Then two pink lines appeared. On the first try.

“I have to call my sister.” I had been there when friends and family members innocently and excitedly proclaimed their pregnancies to Alyssa, unaware of her ongoing fertility struggles and the pain inside that escalated with each baby announcement. I knew what the smile looked like that she bravely wore as she congratulated each one, while her heart was breaking inside. I had cried with her as months turned into years without a realization of her most precious desire.

After we celebrated and prayed together, my husband and I prepared to go our separate ways for the evening, he to his boys’ night and I to my TV shows, bursting at the seams with A Secret. “Let’s wait to tell anyone until you see a doctor,” he said, and kissed me goodbye. Ten minutes later, he phoned from the car. “You’d better call your sister.”

As I dialed the phone, my stomach slowly climbed into my throat and I felt guilt settle on my shoulders. With a pang, I thought of my earlier dance through the house, pink-and-white stick in hand. I rebuked myself for my excitement, because what was happening just wasn’t fair.

“Life isn’t divided into four equal parts,” my mother reminded my siblings and me time and time again, as we squabbled over toys or treats. But it should be, I thought to myself while I waited for my sister to pick up the phone. Life should have given her – the one everyone knew would actually be the World’s Greatest Mother – a baby a long time ago. It wasn’t my turn. Not yet.

“Don’t be mad at me” were the first words out of my mouth when she picked up the phone. I would not have blamed her for hating me at that moment; for resenting me on so many levels.

“Why would I be mad at you?” she asked, after I shakily explained my new and surprising diagnosis – and then we cried together on the phone. But her tears were not tears of sadness. Nobody else in the world was as happy for me and for the little baby that would grow into my precious Logan than my sister. I was amazed at her strength and her ability to see past her own struggles and take hold of the Bible verse that commands us to rejoice with those who rejoice.

Yes, if we lived in a perfect world, my sister would already have four or five babies making a mess of her home. If life was fair, she would have been the first in our family to make The Announcement to our parents and present them with their first grandchild. But we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a fallen world, one that is full of sin and disappointments.

There were many times during my pregnancy that I looked at my growing belly in the mirror and felt the heavy hand of guilt all over again, or cried to my husband, “It’s just not fair.” I don’t know why God let me have it “easy” and sent Brett and Alyssa on a longer pregnancy journey, one with so many struggles and frustrations. But I do know for certain that they have both been strengthened in their spiritual journey because of this experience, and that they have truly learned what it means to rely only on God.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” None of us would have ever chosen this path for Brett and Alyssa. But God – who loves them more than we ever could – did, and through it, has allowed them to be a blessing to so many people who have been touched by their story.

Alyssa was with me every step of the way during labor and delivery, as a coach, cheerleader and photographer. She walked the hospital halls with me, taking turns being the one to give me massages through my back labor and braiding my hair during a break between contractions. Even as I prepared to meet my brand-new baby, I couldn’t stop thinking of the immense sacrifice she was making just being in that hospital room – all the while wishing she could trade places with me, contractions, swollen feet, IVs and all.

I hope – more than I could ever express – that her turn comes quickly. But I know that whatever happens, she believes that God knows what is best for her and for Brett. What a beautiful example is being set here – a couple able to rejoice while in the midst of such a trial. They have grown closer together and closer to God through their pain, and have truly been able to thank Him for allowing them to suffer, because he is using their situation for His glory.

Please join with me in praying for them as they begin their IVF journey. While many may believe that their hope for a child is now in the hands of a doctor, we know better.

“But God can do what seems impossible;
God controls eternity.
My mind can never comprehend it,
But God in heaven cares for me.”

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My Journey Through Infertility

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It has been difficult for me to get my thoughts together for this post.
I am *the worst* at sharing personal/physical struggles, but the Lord has shown me time and again that when I break down those walls and share what God is doing in my life, the blessings flow.

When Brett and I first got married, we made the decision to not use birth control. We have absolutely nothing against it. We just were very eager to start a family and were hoping that the Lord would answer that prayer very quickly. For the first year of marriage, I spent so much money on pregnancy tests – it was absurd! I would get my hopes up every single month. I always felt like I had the “symptoms”. But as many of you who have gone through this know, a lot of those “feelings” can be in your head. (or a product of the stress and anticipation)

Year two, I was dealing with some other physical battles – so the thought of pregnancy wasn’t actively on my mind. But during years three and four, the emotional and mental battles were going at full force. It was extremely difficult for me to see babies/hear about others’ pregnancies/go to baby showers/etc. I became very depressed and withdrawn. These times were some of the lowest of my life. When I look back on it now, I fully see that my eyes were completely off the Lord. I allowed my circumstances to dictate my feelings. And I allowed my faithlessness to rule my life. At these low times, the truth of God’s sovereignty was just not believable to me. I am so thankful that during those difficult days, I had the support of my amazing husband and some extraordinarily godly women who prayed for me daily and lifted me up physically/emotionally and spiritually when I was weak. God is so good!

By year four, the fog started lifting. My God, faithful as He ever was, drew me continually closer to Himself, and I began to find my joy in Him again. Pregnancy news, babies, EVERYTHING began to get a lot easier to deal with. Exciting even!! By the end of year four of marriage, somehow it clicked into our minds to get help. (I look back and feel like shouting to us, “DUUUUUHHHHH!!!”) 😉

We visited an OBGYN who specialized in fertility, and she quickly found that there was a specific hurdle that we would have to jump through in order to get pregnant. But there was nothing that she thought would be super challenging. We did two IUIs (Intrauterine Insemination). Neither were successful.

Shortly after working with this OBGYN, the Lord directed us to move to Virginia Beach so Brett could begin seminary. We were disappointed to leave in the middle of treatments, but knew that this was what the Lord was calling us to do, so we went for it.

Brett and I both got full-time jobs shortly after moving down. And with Brett in seminary full-time and both of us working full-time, we had absolutely no time to seek help. Year five was a long year. Although we really enjoyed our jobs and such, one of our greatest desires – to have a family – didn’t seem to be in the near future for us. (meanwhile, ALL of my 4 sisters got pregnant that year. Thanks a lot, y’all!) 😉

The biggest blessing to me at this point was to be nannying for an amazing family who gave me the incredible blessing of caring for their little one when she was just a few months old. My mother and sister worried about me during this time – that I would get too attached/become too emotionally involved/etc. – and I probably did do all of those things. But I just see it as God’s goodness to allow that gaping, empty hole in my heart to be filled for a short while with some sweet little ones! But by the time my employer (I hate to use that stiff word because she is an amazing friend as well) became pregnant again…. I got the itch. And let me tell you, it itched something fierce! 😉

Brett and I began praying about how we could find the time in our busy schedules to do fertility treatments again. Literally DAYS later, my employer/friend told me that she was desiring to become a stay-at-home mom. My heart sunk at first because her little girls/their family have just been my life for the past year or so — but I also immediately thought, “THIS COULD NOT HAVE BEEN MORE GOD!”
So after her baby was born, Brett and I sought out a fertility specialist and began working with The New Hope Center here in Virginia Beach. They asked us to redo all of the testing that we had done 2 years previous in NY. It was disappointing to have to go through all of it again. Besides the physical things, there is a constant emotional battle going on. But God was, OF COURSE, so faithful through it all.

Finally, a few weeks ago, we received the news that (without an absolute miracle from heaven), it would be impossible for us to have children naturally.
I cried. A lot. For a day or so, I just sat there mourning the things that I thought I was losing. I definitely, to my shame, had a pity party. And I invited a lot of people to that party, for which I am so sorry.

Again, my prayer warriors came around me and lifted me up before the Lord and encouraged me to see beyond the sorrow. The Lord directed me to listen to a message entitled “Why Trials?” The preacher started out by asking these questions:

#1) Do you believe that God is in control?
#2) Do you believe that God is good?
#3) Will you wait on Him by faith until the darkness becomes light?

I paused the sermon after he asked these questions and just cried before the Lord and answered these honestly before Him. I felt like the past few days I had been completely buckling under this trial – and was lashing out like never before. The preacher further spoke on the blessings of remaining UNDER your trials. He directed attention to 1 Peter 5:6-7 which says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lit you up in due time. Casting all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” This verse really spoke to my heart, along with a quote from the pastor that said, “The Christian who does not remain under the hand of God, will never see the purpose for the trial accomplished in their life.” So convicting. My immediate response to my trial was to bail, but the Spirit so faithfully drew me back to the Lord and encouraged me from God’s word to remain under this trial and to bear with it to see God’s purpose!

Soon after, we had our final meeting with our doctor, and he presented to us our only option to have biological children of our own: IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). We had previously read a bit about it and thought we were aware of the process.

We. Were. Sorely. Mistaken.

I feel like IVF is a blog for another day. Or perhaps a series of blogs, lol. Besides the enormous amount of hoops to jump through for IVF to happen and the moral and ethical decisions that we have to make – the cost is astronomical.
But we have been asking a TON of questions over the past few weeks since our final meeting and have prayed often as a couple and with our family and feel like at this point, God has opened the door for us to start IVF. We are so excited to see what God will do with this journey!

Please pray that we will PRAISE the Lord whether it is successful or whether it is not.

Side Note: We will be posting updates throughout our IVF treatment on our GoFundMe account. Here is the link if you are interested: https://www.gofundme.com/nt57xbt4 .

Six Wonderful Years

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I cannot believe we’ve been married for 6 years!
It feels like just yesterday that we “officially” started dating by holding hands for the first time on a BJU dating outing bus. ; ) (*shocking*) Fast forward less than a year later and it’s our wedding day. We are scrambling to find the Father-of-the-Bride (me padre) and my bouquet so we can begin the wedding. (Thankfully, both situations were settled with either a box of tissues or a 30 minute drive back to the photography location. : D I’ll let you decide which solution went where. ;)) The ceremony itself was a blur. I know I cried. A lot. I know Brett smiled. A lot.
The reception was also a blur. A blur that did not include us consuming the amazing food that was available. (TIP FOR ENGAGED COUPLES: EAT at your wedding reception!!!)
Seriously though. Our wedding day was absolutely unforgettable. By far one of the best, most wonderful days of our life.

However, if I’m being totally honest and self-centered, looking back over the past 6 years AFTER we were married can be a bit painful for me. They have been nothing like I imagined them to be. In my naivety, I had imagined that at the 6 year mark, we would be in a ministry that we could see ourselves in until we died / have had at least 2 or 3 children (all boys, of course) / a decent amount of money / Brett would have gotten the fishing boat he longs for — I, my perfectly organized home with perfect decor pieces / and of course, the rest of the typical dreams.

All I can say is: BUT GOD.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:8)

We have talked a lot about creating a blog and our purpose for it.
Disclaimers right off the bat…
Are we even writers? (not in a million years)
Did we get good grades in English class? (in our dreams)

I did think about how fun it would be to share my Pinterest projects/organizing tips/bargain finds, etc. And Brett will undoubtedly want to write endless posts on the downfalls of having a Facebook account/how to write graduate level papers while being completely sleep deprived/how to get your wife to clean out her car, etc.
However, at the heart of this, we both have been extremely burdened to write openly and honestly about marriage. The victories and the battles. We want to encourage others out there that you are not alone in your struggles!

((I just wrote a huge paragraph here to continue the thought but thought better of saying something too controversial in our first post. 😉 I will leave that to another day.))

Pray for us as we start this journey! To God be the glory.

1Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.”1935760_152474008401_2040902_n