Category: In Her Shoes
In Her Shoes – Women and Cancer
“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me,
I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:10 NKJV
This month we are blessed to hear from three women who have walked with God through the valley of the shadow of cancer. Each testimony will bless your heart and remind you of God’s ever faithful love. Below is a list of resources. If you would like to share about your cancer journey or the journey of someone you love, we would treasure hearing from you at the end of this article.
Our first testimony is from my sweet sister in Christ, Sarah from Iowa, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor and the very real possibility of cancer. She delights in sharing about God’s faithfulness through her time of trial. Thank you, Sarah!
God Is My Refuge
From the very beginning, God’s hand was amazingly evident in every detail! First of all, our family has a friend who is a neurologist, and she was the one who, after hearing about the incidents I had, was able to get me a referral to see a doctor in early October. He did an EEG and an MRI, which revealed a small mass in my right temporal lobe that was causing some minor seizure-like activity in my brain. He was of the opinion that it needed to be removed, even though it appeared benign, and he referred me to a doctor at the University of Iowa Hospital, because of the world-class excellence of the neurosurgery department there. I first saw him on October 22, and he was able to get me scheduled me for surgery on November 14.
God graciously allowed me to continue teaching right up until the day before my surgery and make preparations for my aid, who took over the classroom in my absence. This dear woman was another clear evidence of God’s sovereign provision, since she had been a part of our classroom since the beginning of the year and works wonderfully well with the kids!
The surgery lasted 7 hours and went very well, however they had to leave a small part of the tumor, because it was located so near to the brain stem. We had been told that very likely I would have to do further treatment at some point or possibly have another surgery in the future. I was released from the hospital 4 days after surgery and permitted to go to stay with my parents during the recovery time. God’s timing was so perfect, as the time recommended for recovery took me right up to Christmas break, and it was such a blessing to be able to be with my family during that time!
When the pathology report came back, I was told that it was the best possible news I could have received! Not only was the tumor benign, but amazingly they do not believe that I will ever have to worry about it again, even though they couldn’t remove it entirely! I was totally overwhelmed by God’s goodness and mercy in giving me such complete healing! The prayers of so many people on my behalf during this time were truly humbling and encouraging, and it was wonderful to be able to share this news, for when many people pray, many thanks can be rendered to God for His answer!
As I daily recovered my strength, it was great to be able to resume more and more normal activities, and when school started back up in January, I was able to go back to teaching. It really only took about a week before I really felt like I was back into the swing of things, and in fact, in many ways I felt even better than I had before the surgery!
God has continued to give me many opportunities to share what He did through all of this, and to Him be all the glory for everything, for He is truly sovereign in every detail of life and wonderfully good in everything that He allows! I would not trade this experience, because I learned so much through it – especially about what the Body of Christ looks like when it is truly functioning as God intends it to, the nearness of God that we can most fully experience when we are hurting the most or feeling the most needy, and His absolute sovereignty in every detail of our lives! I praise Him for entrusting me with this small trial, so that I can be better able to be an encouragement to others with the same comfort that God gave to me during this time!
One of the verses that became especially precious to me through all this is Psalm 59:16 –
“I will sing of Your strength and will
joyfully proclaim Your faithful love in the morning. For You have been a
stronghold for me, a refuge in my day of trouble.” CSB
Truly, God is my strength, my joy, and my refuge, and life’s trials only serve to make that truth more real and more precious than ever!
My Cancer Journey . . .
– When your Mom gets breast cancer and you’re in elementary school, and when she passes away from it when you’re 12, you always have in the back of your mind that you’re going to get breast cancer, too.
– So when you find your first lump at 16, have it removed and it comes back benign, you’re relieved.
– And when you start having mammograms at 30, and they routinely show lumps that are non-cancerous you are relieved.
– And when you have a lump that doesn’t change, but doesn’t go away, you don’t really worry, but you get it checked out. But, when the hospital Breast Cancer Center calls you back, and you walk in and see the doctor and the head of the BC Support Group, and before they even open their mouths, you know “this is the moment you’ve been dreading for 36 years!,” you’re still shocked, surprised, and numb.
I chose a completely traditional medicine approach at that time. If I had it to do again, I would probably do it differently – but I trust that God had me where he wanted me when He wanted me, so I choose to have no regrets. The doctors thought lumpectomy might be enough. With my history (which also included positive aunts on my father’s side), I chose double mastectomy.
Following surgery, the doctors told me they were glad for my decision; they found tumors in both breasts that had not appeared in any diagnostic procedure. Mastectomy was the only logical choice, and it had been the choice God had led me to make.
I cannot describe God’s overwhelming presence throughout the entire journey. Frankly, sometimes I almost miss cancer because I miss that extra grace that God gives in trials like that. And, when you know your life is in God’s hands, you can trust that He is in control and going to do with it was it best for you and best for bringing glory to His name. Period.
I had many extra opportunities to talk with others about the Lord during this time. Many could not understand peace in the midst of my storm. On the other side, many were a great encouragement to me during this time. I started a Facebook Page (link here) just to keep everyone updated. It was a HUGE comfort to ask for prayer and KNOW that friends were truly praying for me. It was also very cathartic to be able to write out what I was going through each step of the way. I’m also encouraged to go back and read through God’s provision and presence at every single step.
What did people say “right?” “I’m praying for you” and “I love you” were always the best! I loved the specific people – “we pray for you every day at breakfast!” or “the kids and I pray for you each night at bedtime.” It reminded me that, if I was feeling bad at 8:00, the family that put their kids to bed at 8:00 was praying for me! Also the tangible “what can I do?” was wonderful. It was offered often, but the ones who really waited and listened for me to answer were special. Also those who gave me permission to have bad days and a shoulder to cry on, even if words were never spoken were a blessing.
What did people say “wrong?” “OH, that’s terrible! My Grandma died from that!” or “Have fun in the bedroom now, you won’t be attractive to your hubby after they cut your breasts off!” “Oh, you must be so terrified for your daughters!” (That one WAS one of my greatest fears, and I had to address it with the Lord. But someone reminding me really didn’t help anything!) Yeah, those three were pretty bad! Most of the time, people were great! Sometimes people put their foot in their mouth – but we usually just laughed together after that. I appreciated the effort and the selflessness of trying to say something sweet, even if it came out wrong.
If you found out you had cancer today, I’d encourage you to pause. And then pray. I was grateful for quick care. But, frankly, there really was no rush. We’d been watching things for over 6 months; we could have waited 6 more months and little would have changed. Pray and ask God to guide you (and spouse, if you are fortunate enough to have one involved). Then seek the counsel of those who have walked the path already. I learned more from other “survivors” than I did from Google, WebMD, medical journals, and the American Cancer Society together! Then pray some more and ask God to direct your specific path. Talk with your pastor and pastor’s wife. They probably have a great deal more experience with “big things” than you do – even if it’s not cancer. Then walk your path with peace and confidence.
Our purpose on this planet is to glorify God. Psalm 86:12 tells us:
I also found comfort in Philippians 1:20:
Frankly, if God wanted me to die from cancer, everything would be better because of it. He had a plan, and I was blessed to be a part of that plan.
I’m thankful I’m still here. But I remind myself, am I glorifying God today as much as I was when I was walking the path of breast cancer? Cancer, in its own way, was something God allowed in my life that drew me closer to Him – and for that I am thankful.
This last testimony is from the mom of a dear college friend. Thank you, Donna in California! You are a blessing.
GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME
It was about the beginning of December that I noticed something wasn’t quite right. I made an appointment, and a verse started going through my mind – we had the sentence of death in ourselves. The nurse practitioner found a large mass and seemed alarmed. She told me to schedule a mammogram and ultrasound. Thenext day the verse went through my mind again and I was by myself: “Lord, are you trying to telling me I am going to die?”
I stopped what I was doing and looked up the verse: II Corinthians 1:8-11:
which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength,
insomuch that we despaired even of life (sounds like cancer surgery, chemotherapy, being sick as a dog, and finding out you
have Stage IV cancer): But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but
in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth
deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us: Ye also helping together
by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many
persons, thanks may be given by many on our behalf.” KJV
I want to just make a plea here for you to familiarize yourself with God’s word. It is so easy to do that in this day and age, with all the technology available to us. You can listen to scripture on your iPod or iPad, download it, put it on CD’s, hear it in your car or when you are getting ready in the morning, you can get preaching from Sunday (online) – there are so many ways to get the Bible in to renew your mind – what a harvest of blessings that will bring to you!
You know, God really is good all the time. He knows I am prone to worry. He knew I might just fall apart if I got news of cancer. So, He gave me these verses ahead of time, so I wouldn’t go off the deep end and despair. I haven’t been upset about having cancer. Other people are more upset than I am. God was good to prepare me.
I had the mammogram and ultrasound, and the doctor said he saw something and scheduled a biopsy. Three days before my biopsy, I was asked to play the offertory for Sunday. I chose Be Still My Soul. The phrase kept jumping out at me – in every change, He faithful will remain. God will be faithful to me in every change.
On January 22nd
I found out it was breast cancer and the doctor who gave me the news was so sweet. I really was doing fine until she started being sympathetic and told me to put my trust in God. That made me cry, and she cried with me. My Bible reading for that day was Exodus 14-16: 14:13 says, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will show to you today.” God told me in His word that morning, before I went to the appointment,
not to be afraid.
The oncologist said, “This is a sneaky kind of cancer.” It’s not a lump – I never felt a lump – it’s a thickening, so it’s harder to detect. And it’s lobular, so it doesn’t show up on a mammogram until it is very large. She told us what our options were and one of them was the mastectomy and reconstruction.
Obviously, what I think is best for me would be no cancer. But God had something else in mind. If you had asked me 5 months ago if I thought it would be good for me to have cancer I would have said, “Of course not!” But if it is true that God only does what is best for me, then it is good for me to have cancer.
We’ve been praying for some loved ones, to be saved, for some time now – and we don’t really know if they are unsaved or just away from the Lord. One of them responded positively to an email update. If I had to get cancer in order for him to get right with the Lord, it’s totally worth it. If I have to endure some light affliction in order for his immortal soul to be in heaven one day – that’s such a small price to pay. I’ve always wished I could be able to reach some of my coworkers for the Lord, and this cancer has really opened doors for me. I want them to see that God is good, all the time … even when you get cancer.
My pastor came over that day and prayed with us and said he agrees with me about my verses and feels the Lord is going to use this cancer for ministry to others. He gave me Philippians 1:29:
Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” KJV
Suffering is a gift from God. He said there are 3 reasons people suffer – for stupidity, for sin, and for service. And part of the reason may be stupidity – I hadn’t had a mammogram for 8 years, so we might have caught it sooner, but maybe not since it’s so hard to detect. My doctor did say I have had this cancer for years. (I just want to put in a little plug here. If you do need to get a mammogram, you are better off to get the thermal kind, so you are not getting all that radiation.)
He said God is not doing this to me, He is doing this for me. Then he gave us Psalm 71:18. I love this one:
until I have showed thy strength unto this generation and thy power to every
one that is to come.” KJV
God will use this to show His power to my children and my grandchildren. I was actually kind of excited about having cancer. I do want my children and grandchildren to love God and cling closely to Him all their days.
I thought I was handling everything pretty well, but even if our minds are doing well, our bodies can be reacting to the stress. That night I had flashing lights on the side of my vision that last for several minutes. Before my appointment (to check my eyes), I went to a nutrition class for cancer patients, and saw a man with a scar from one ear to the other, over the top of his head, and his hair was just starting to grow back. I thought, Oh my word, he must have brain cancer!
After class I told my nurse about the flashing lights and I said, “You don’t think that could have anything to do with my breast cancer, do you?” She said, “Well, breast cancer goes to the brain, so your doctor will probably order a brain scan, in fact she’ll probably order a full body scan, just to make sure.”
I went to the car and cried. I don’t mind having breast cancer, but I don’t want to have brain cancer. I found out it was an eye migraine caused by stress. The Lord has given me grace for breast cancer because I have breast cancer … and that’s why I’m okay with it. But He has not given me grace for brain cancer, because I don’t have brain cancer.
Some of you may think, “I could never handle what she’s going through!” Yes, you could. If God gives that to you, He will also give you the grace to bear it. Grace is spiritual strength. It is that ability to be obedient to our Savior, even under pressure. It’s what keeps us from falling under the load. You will have the spiritual strength to endure whatever the Lord brings into your life because He’s a good God.
The end of that week I had a biopsy of the lymph node that was positive for cancer, and later had a bone scan that showed cancer all down my spine and in my pelvis. So, I am Stage IV. Once breast cancer has metastasized to other parts of the body, there is no cure. They still felt I needed surgery, so I went ahead and had a 9 hour surgery at UCLA that included the mastectomy, removal of 60 lymph nodes (59 of which were cancerous) and the reconstruction. Just before surgery I was tempted to be frightened. But, I had taken a verse with me to the hospital (Colossians 3:15 – “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts … and be ye thankful”). That verse calmed me right down, and I started thinking of all my blessings. I remembered all the cards, emails, kind words and prayers going up for me. There are some perks to having cancer – you find out how much everyone loves you. I was thankful for my husband and all my wonderful family. I felt very loved and cared for.
Right now I am doing very well. I don’t have any symptoms, I don’t have any pain. The Lord has been so good to me. I haven’t had to endure what most cancer patients go through. I didn’t have to have chemotherapy and be sick or lose my hair. My treatment is a pill I take every day and then I get a shot once a month. I have a couple more out-patient surgeries for reconstruction. I do have Stage IV cancer, but my doctor said I could live for years on this treatment.
I hope all this has helped you realize how good God is and that you can trust Him with anything, even that hard thing that makes you tremble.
- A Husband’s Guide to Breast Cancer by Todd Outcalt
- A Journey Through Cancer: My Story of Hope, Healing and God’s Amazing Faithfulness by Emilie Barnes
- Dear God, They Say It’s Cancer: A Companion Guide for Women On the Breast Cancer Journey by Janet Thompson
- Hope In the Face of Cancer by Amy Givler, M.D.
- Prayers In the Storm: Resting In God’s Comfort and Care by Sandy Lynam Clough
- Praying Through Cancer: Set Your Heart Free From Fear – A 90 Day Devotional for Women by Susan Sorensen and Laura Geist
- Seeing God’s Heart When You Hurt by Sandy Lynam Clough
- When You Don’t Know What to Say by Sandy Lynam Clough
In Her Shoes – Military Wives
And they are not the only ones sacrificing. Spouses and children back home go through unique struggles while their favorite mom or dad is away (think of all the parents and grandparents, siblings and close friends of our military who also sacrifice). We owe them a great deal of gratitude and love-in-action.
Yes, the separation from hubby is overwhelmingly difficult. That ranks as the highest difficulty, but near the top of the list would be mechanical breakdowns (vehicles, appliances, etc.). Accompanying the difficulty of my husband being gone was the loss of emotional help and encouragement that normally I could look forward to at the end of a long day or week. Just as wearing was the constant child care with no breaks, like trying to survive the bedtime and teeth brushing every single night with no help.
How do I cope?
#1. Pray and pray and pray some more. Many times as I asked for help with loneliness, my husband would be able to make a phone call that day. Other times I would pray for help with something that had broken down, and a person would offer to help without even knowing I needed anything fixed.
#2. Learn to ask for help. I wanted to appear like I could handle this. I didn’t want word to get over to my husband that things weren’t going well at home. I learned to take people at their word who had offered to help, even if it had been a long time since they mentioned it.
My children have learned to love the United States of America, to honor and appreciate soldiers, and to be proud of their Papa. I, on the other hand, have learned to lean on the Lord and on others when circumstances are not as I would like.
During the second deployment, I asked people to commit to choosing one of our children and then praying for that child every day for the entire deployment. Many stepped up to the challenge, and it brought tears and thankfulness to my heart every time I read the cards that those people sent, promising to pray for this child or that child. There were several who kept their promise and prayed for us daily for a whole year.
Others blessed us with the gift of encouragement and help that was not asked for. Some offered to bring a meal “for no reason at all.” They just informed me that they were bringing food and asked what night they should bring it. A couple men showed up regularly and took it upon themselves to make sure the riding mower was running and blades sharpened, to change the oil in the vehicles, and anything else around the place that needed done. They didn’t wait for me to say I needed help, but guessed what I needed and took it upon themselves.
One special couple would invite our family to birthday parties for their children as a way to get me out of the house and to help with the children for the evening. They understood what the military doesn’t understand. The military offers free babysitting at the YMCA, but I, as a Christian mom, didn’t feel comfortable leaving my children with just anyone. So they gave me a break from the children in a way that I was comfortable with.
We had a problem with church family and relatives trying to assume the job of Dad. If one of the children would misbehave in public, they would discipline them or rebuke them “because their dad wasn’t there to do it.” Military kids have a lot to deal with without others coming down hard on them. On the same thought, some could not understand why all of a sudden our kids were either hyper, upset, or getting into trouble in class or other places. Children respond to worry about their military parent in all different ways, and the best thing you can offer a military child who is acting up is all the encouragement and understanding you can give.
We were blessed with countless offers of help at the beginning of both deployments. The unfortunate thing was that probably only 50% of those were still willing to help when I asked. Either do not offer to help at all if you are too busy or not able, or offer to help and mean it with all your heart. It was also a great blessing when people would offer to help regularly, even weekly. This gave me a “non-guilty” opportunity to mention needs without feeling I was begging or bothering someone who was too busy.
As hard as it is to swallow in the middle of a difficult circumstance like a deployment, God did not make a mistake when He deployed my husband. Good will come of it if I allow Him to be glorified and to show His power.
A heartfelt “thank you” to the Bruck family!
Special thanks to the Delich Family!
My experience in the military showed me two things. Just like every American, peacetime is a time to forget God. It’s not until things get rough, wartime, separation from loved ones that a person is most likely to look to or blame God for their circumstances.
Separation time is difficult for the military member but I believe it is even more difficult for the family left behind.
While I was stationed in Korea for a year, I had only been married for a little over one year. It was extremely difficult for me to have to leave my husband behind. I lost ten pounds within the first month and really felt disconnected. No one really wanted to be there, so there was no use complaining.
I remember some friends’ advice, “You will either grow or fall back spiritually during deployments. There is no ‘staying the same.'” They were right. I got connected with a local Bible study through the chapel and spent most of my free time with friends I had made there. I also had the opportunity to connect with a missionary outreach located just off base for uniformed personnel.
The worst thing that happened while there came from my own husband. He was having a real hard time dealing with this separation and all his phone calls were about his misery. It got to where I didn’t look forward to them anymore. There was nothing I could do and I told him he needed to focus on taking care of himself for now and just keep busy. That didn’t mean I didn’t love him. He made the decision to surround himself with people who believed personal happiness was king. He secretly considered divorce, so he might have a chance at happiness with someone else.
Fortunately, God protected me from knowing about it and I was able to grow spiritually during my tour and see other people through His eyes. I was on fire when I returned and ready to serve.
My advice: 1. Stay connected with those you love in the military no matter what their relationship is to you. Take advantage of every opportunity to communicate God’s love. This is the time they will be most open to receive it. Send Gifts!!!
2. Do not share every problem with a deployed member unless it is absolutely necessary. They are usually helpless to assist and will feel the need to do something. Lean on neighbors and friends for help whenever possible. Do include them in important decisions.”
Thank you, Lisa!
What about you? What has been your experience as a military wife, daughter, mom, sister, aunt, or close friend? How has God helped you through the difficult times? We would love to hear from you. Thank you for stopping by WOGM today. May God help us lavishly minister to these brave families.
American Bible Society: Reaching out to Military Families
Ministering to Military Families
Free images of military families thanks to Photobucket.
Kingdom Chronicles VBS
We just finished our summer Vacation Bible School last night. Several children and their families turned out for the closing program. I am so grateful that our pastor chose Kingdom Chronicles, put out by Answer In Genesis. It was a great week!
The castle theme was fun, of course, but more importantly the teaching from God’s Word about how to prepare for daily living was solid and practical. Based on the armor of God passage in Ephesians 6, children age 4 – entering 7th grade learned how to be strong in God, the King of Kings.
I love the music in this program! Most of the songs were written by Ron Hamilton, Jonathan Hamilton, and Buddy Davis. We didn’t purchase the soundtracks. I enjoyed serving as pianist, and I think it’s safe to say that all the children and adults were blessed by every song.
We also didn’t purchase their craft supplies. Instead our pastor’s wife directed the craft making of a “stained glass window” with card boxes, transparencies, “jewels,” and markers. They turned out to be quite lovely.
Last week several children chose to follow God’s kingdom instead of Satan’s kingdom. Please pray for us as we follow up with the families who participated.
I’m so thankful we were able to be part of it, and I can’t wait until next year! What did your church do for VBS this year? Would love to hear about it below!
To learn more about Kingdom Chronicles, click here.
In Her Shoes – In Honor of Mom
Our all-wise and gracious God created mothers. One of the greatest blessings in life is a loving, godly mother. I am blessed with such a mother. If your mother doesn’t fit this description, please don’t stop reading. God wants to comfort you and help you. The God of resurrection can take past patterns of pain and turn them into paths of peace.
This month we have the privilege to walk in the shoes of two special moms through the tributes of their grateful daughters. May God use these examples to encourage and challenge us. And most of all, may we have hope for the future – because with God’s strength, it is possible to bless our families and honor Him in this adventure called Motherhood.
“My mom and I have an amazing
relationship, I do not take it for granted as I’m keenly aware there are many
mother-daughter relationships that are highly strained.
I am blessed to have a mom
who sacrificed her time for me. One of
my fondest memories is that she would always be awake when I came home late
from a youth activity, friend’s house or sporting event. We would sit in the kitchen talking into the
wee hours of the night. I am the
youngest of three kids and I’m certain her first full night of sleep came the
day after I got married!
Not only did my mom sacrifice
for me, but she modeled what it looked like to sacrifice her time and talents
for others. She was always baking
goodies for others and doing little acts of kindness for people on the
sly. I learned from her that there is
great joy in giving to others even when no one else is looking.
My mom taught me that her
faith and relationship to God was important. Nearly every morning, my mom would
be sitting in her favorite chair reading her Bible. She was never showy in her walk with God, but
I always knew her faith was very important to her.
My mom showed me how to live
a life of simplicity. She is an incredibly
organized person, thrifty in using what she has and never complained or
compared her status with others.
Overall, my mom taught me her
life motto, which has become mine – “Love God and serve others”, which
basically summaries everything that stand out most to me about my mom.
Because of the time my mom
invested in my life, I can wholeheartedly say that next to my husband she is my
– Jennifer, Minnesota
“I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by, so here are
the top five things my mom has taught me. It was hard to narrow it down to just five 🙂 !
1. My mom taught me that the Bible and my relationship
with Jesus Christ are the most important things in life. She always took us to
church and we studied the Bible together after supper. Over the years, she
taught children in Good News Clubs, Sunday School, and also in Vacation
Bible School and most recently in our church’s AWANA club. She is a great
storyteller and each generation of kids loves to hear her missionary stories.
But more importantly, she showed her Christianity in her daily walk with
2. My mom’s nickname is “Sunny” and she lives up to that
name. She’s never met a stranger, but is always striking up a conversation with
the waitress, a health care worker at my aunt’s nursing home, or someone at the
gym. She’s very friendly and upbeat.
3. She is very generous and wants to do whatever she can
to meet someone’s need. When they needed someone to lead the children’s choir,
she stepped up. When they needed someone to teach English to international
students, she said, “I can do that.” When we needed a place to live, she opened
up her home to us. Years later, when my son needed a place to live, she said,
“Sure, Justin can live with us until he gets married!” If she could, she would
give you “the shirt off her back”!
4. She’s always ready and willing to learn something new
or do something fun. She took on a project to scan all her family’s old photos
and make digital albums for each family. She loves playing word games like
“Take Two” with Scrabble tiles or Quiddler with whoever will take her on. (She
5. Whatever happens to her in life, she takes it as from
the Lord. When I had a traumatic event of a job loss happen in my life, I went
on crying jags and acted like it was the end of the world. In contrast, Mom was
recently diagnosed with terminal cancer (leukemia) and her reaction was totally
different. She didn’t rant or rave, but found appropriate Scripture verses to
share with the doctors and nurses who have been treating her. Even though she
tires easily (a new concept for her!), she still keeps up with her five kids,
twelve grandkids, and five great-grandchildren plus her husband, Rod, of 61
Thanks for giving me this opportunity to brag about my
mom. We treasure our time with her and it’s been fun to condense what she’s
taught me in five short points!”
– Cindy Albertson, Iowa
Proverbs 31: 28a, 30, 31
In Her Shoes – Infertility
“Hannah had no children . . . and she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish.” I Samuel 1:2b, 10
When we were little girls, cherished dreams captivated our imaginations. What did your “Dream List” look like? Was there a swirly-lettered, purple gel penned space that read, “Experience trials and become a better person because of them”? It wasn’t on my list either. “Become a mom,” was close to the top.
I don’t like pain. I like to be comfy-cozy. I like to be useful. Lord, it’s not as if becoming a mother is a completely selfish ambition . . . I want to serve You and my family as a mother! If you have prayed that prayer and experienced empty arms, then you understand the pain of infertility.
“Infertility is the failure of a couple to conceive a pregnancy after trying to do so for at least one full year. In primary infertility, pregnancy has never occurred. In secondary infertility, one or both members of the couple have previously conceived, but are unable to conceive again after a full year of trying” (Medical Dictionary). According to Mayo Clinic, infertility effects 10-15% of couples in the USA (Mayo Clinic).
For those of you who suffer the pain of not being able to have children, do you know that God’s plan is good – but right now it just doesn’t seem like it is good, for you? Over the years I’ve periodically wondered if God really understands what we women go through. The Bible says Jesus was in all points tempted like us (Hebrews 4:15-16) . . . BUT, He never went through all this woman-stuff! How can He possibly understand the pain of cramps, miscarriage, child-birth, or infertility?
God designed and created women – every minute and amazing detail . . . from chocolate cravings (what did women do before chocolate was invented?) to motherly instincts (Psalm 139). He knows everything we think (with the brains He made for us to use), and He knows everything we feel (with the emotions that were His idea). There can be no question about caring . . . Jesus died a painful death to rescue all women everywhere who will come to Him. He knows. He understands.
Is your heart weary with the pain of infertility? Do your arms ache with the seemingly never ending struggle? You are not alone! No mere person can fully understand, love, and help you . . . but God can. (Single sisters, who would love to have children – we haven’t forgotten you.) If you have sons or daughters, do you know someone in your church, at work, or in your neighborhood who is unable to bear children? You will learn specific ways to minister to women from our four contributors below.
Dear Sisters … thank you for allowing us to walk in your precious shoes.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
Sometimes infertility is expected because of illness or injury received. In most cases, like ours, it is something you think will never happen to you. I had already “had” to wait for marriage longer than I planned. Now I “had” to wait to have children! After a number of doctor visits, we were told it was very unlikely that my husband would be able to father children. Now my heart hurt for my husband as well as for us. He felt so badly not to be able to provide for one of my greatest dreams.
The Lord has used this, as He does with all things, for our good. He has been gracious to help me give my expectations to Him, and exchange them for His way, even though it is unknown and unsettling. I struggle with how I think people perceive us because we don’t have children. They think there’s something wrong with us. Or that we do not love each other enough. Or even that we do not know how to have sex right. I know for sure that some people view our childlessness as a hindrance to my husband’s pastoral ministry.
I need people to understand that there is nothing “wrong” with us, just because our family looks different than theirs. I hope they understand that just as God puts them through things we will never face, this is something God has designed for us to go through.
Some people think it’s not that big a deal. I assure you that it is a big deal. It is one of the most difficult things I have had to face. And regardless of how “well” I handle it, it will never go away. Mother’s Day is especially difficult for me, but not for reasons you might think. I can be okay with not being a mother on Mother’s Day, because I believe Mother’s Day is a day to honor your own mother, not mothers in general. That is how it began. But well-meaning people make it more difficult for me than it has to be. Those who know me best, know that it does not help me to be given a Mother’s Day gift, even though I’m not a mother, or to be told that “I have a mother’s heart” or “You will make a good mother.” I KNOW I have a mother’s heart. I know I would be a good mother. But, I am NOT a mother. And being reminded of these things does not help me make it through another Mother’s Day. Our church recognizes all ladies if we do a special gift, and my husband doesn’t usually preach a beat-them-up Mother’s Day message. Many people have told him they really appreciate this.
Please get to know infertile couples on a personal basis. Don’t be afraid to open the door for them to talk about the Lord’s working in their infertility. Don’t isolate them from yourself because you have children and they don’t. You still have things in common with each other to build friendships on. And, yes, your childless pastor and his wife can still minister to you, even on parenting issues.
Some things NOT to say: “It will happen for you. One day you’ll have a house full of children.” You don’t know that. And I need to work at being content right now, and right now I don’t have children.
Also, “I understand exactly how you feel.” Even if you are infertile or childless yourself, your situation is not exactly like mine, and you can’t know what I am struggling with in my situation. We each will struggle at different times, with different triggers, and with different aspects of the pain of infertility. I hate it that the first question people usually ask is, “Do you have any children?” When I meet people, I try to ask, “Tell me about yourself” or something like that. If they don’t mention children, then I don’t pursue the topic of children.
People also need to understand that because the pain of infertility will never truly go away, there will be some times when we are “okay with it” and some times we are not. And often we have no idea which it is going to be. There have been times when I have gone to a baby shower and been perfectly fine. There have been other times when I did not go because I knew I would not handle it well.
And then there are times when it’s like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde! One day I was reading in my devotions Psalm 113:9 “He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children.” I was very encouraged by that verse in thinking about fostering/adopting. Then, later that week, a friend of mine who had been married for only about 8 months posted this same verse with her pregnancy announcement! My first thought was, “You know nothing about being barren, girlie!” (Not very gracious, I know, but I am human!) Every time a friend announces she is pregnant, there is a pang–sometimes sharper and longer than at other times. This is why I say that the pain of infertility/childlessness does not ever truly go away.
Speaking specifically to women who are infertile – you must let it go. Your infertility/childlessness will always be brought up before you–by others and by your own mind. If you hold it for just a moment, and turn it over to God, you will grow stronger. But the longer you hold on to it, the more debilitating it becomes, and the more paralyzed and ineffective you will be for God.
Also, look beyond your infertility. That does not have to define you. You are a child of God, with all the blessings and privileges God gives to each of His children. We are in the process of becoming foster parents, with the intention of adopting. There are many children already alive who need a good home. You may be able to have a ministry that others cannot have BECAUSE of your infertility.
“… My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness …”
II Corinthians 12:9a
As I started teaching Sunday school classes and 5-day clubs in my teen and early adult years, I remember loving the story of Hannah (I Samuel 1-2). The more I studied her, the more I realized the amazing faith she had to trust God . . . and how God honored her heart’s desire above and beyond what she could have hoped.
However, it wasn’t until I was in my late 30’s, just newly married, that I realized also the great agony she felt in not being able to have a child. How greater still her distress must have been to have a rival oppress and ridicule her over and over with this!
For those who understand the sadness and pain of infertility, you know what heartache feels like. For me, I thought since God had me wait to be married, He would surely bless my husband and me with a child within our first year. However, that did not happen. I didn’t understand, but I didn’t worry too much about it. Some other people I’d known had had to wait a year or so to have children.
After that first year, we thought we should see if there was something medically wrong with one of us, so we went through the regular tests. We were hopeful. When all the tests came back normal, I was put on fertility pills. We prayed fervently and believed God would use this to help us. And each time it failed was harder than the last.
I began to lose faith. Yes, sometimes I questioned God. I wondered what I had done wrong, and why God was punishing me. Then I would feel guilty for thinking that way. Yet, no matter how I tried, I couldn’t shake those ideas away. I agonized in prayer to God, asking Him to forgive me and help me not lose faith. I shared this with my husband at times, but I knew he was struggling, too. So, I would find quiet places to cry and pray.
One time I was so sure that the medicine had worked, for my time of the month was late. I grew increasingly excited each day it did not come, planning how I would tell my husband and share the news with our family.
I didn’t tell my husband, but I took a pregnancy test. When it came back negative, I wept uncontrollably. I felt like a lesser type of woman and again despised by God! When my husband came home, I couldn’t conceal it. He was very understanding, gently holding, comforting, and praying for us.
When the infertility pills did not work, we were scheduled to see a specialist about injections. However, the more we prayed about it, we felt this was not the course we should take. We prayed God would show us what to do.
At one of my lowest points, I called a close college friend. She cried and prayed with me. She even sent a beautiful card that I still have on my nightstand today. This helped immensely. To make a long story short, it was through her that we began the adoption process. We had already prayed about it, but we were not compelled to take a step of faith.
Although there have been ups and downs and steps of learning about faith with adoption, too – now two years later God has blessed us with a baby boy. We were privileged to bring him home when he was two days old. In one month the adoption will be finalized, and this long, at times agonizing process, will be completed. We named him Caleb because it means, “Faithfulness.” And we have truly seen God’s faithfulness in this entire situation.
I want to encourage those of you who face infertility issues . . .
- Know that God cares for you. And although our feelings may try to persuade us otherwise, all God does is good, not evil (Romans 8:28).
- Don’t be afraid to tell God how you really feel. He knows anyway! Sharing with Him helps us release those feelings.
- Pray for His perspective to be shown to you. Search the Scriptures. Let Him be your guide (reading the Psalms is a great place to start).
- Find a strong, faithful Christian friend with whom you can share your innermost feelings and thoughts. She (or he – your husband) can be the one to lift up your weary hands and hearts (Romans 12:15; Galatians 6:1).
I know your pain is real and the pain you feel can seem overwhelming. There are still times when I wish to hold a baby in my tummy, feeling him or her move and kick. Yet, God has not chosen that for me. And maybe He has not chosen that for you. Let God help you through this. Let God’s strength enfold you in this weakness. His strength is perfect for all we need. Trust Him.
“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8a
Ever since I was ten or eleven years old, I have had abdominal pains. The doctors, at the time, did not see anything wrong and told my mother it would all go away. When I was fourteen my mother took me to see a gynecologist. They said that I had cysts on my ovaries.
In 1993, I married my husband with plans to have children in a couple of years. In 1998, my husband and I sought our doctor’s help to find out why we had not gotten pregnant. One visit ended with the doctor telling me that I would not get pregnant without medical help. After running numerous tests, I was the problem. How I struggled with that, as my whole life I have loved children and could not wait to have my own.
The doctor gave us some options. We tried one with no success and decided that was not what we wanted to do. I remember going out walking while visiting my sister’s house and having my period come early after the procedure. It was devastating to have the procedure not work and being away from my husband. I put a lot of faith in that it would work.
The following year I went to see another doctor. He found out that I had endometriosis and more cysts: an answer that we could wrap our minds around. There was something blocking us from having children. He gave us three options – hysterectomy, birth control pills, or laparoscopy. We chose laparoscopy to relieve the pain. At this time we were not thinking this would help us have a child. We were planning on moving half way across the country for my husband to go to school. Our focus had changed so that he could go after something he had wanted for years.
In 2002, after moving to Michigan nine months earlier, I saw a specialist at the University of Michigan. The doctors wanted to get me pregnant and then deal with the endometriosis. We were to start the tests that we had gone through in 1998 again, this time with top of the nation’s knowledge and resources. I was excited to get started, my husband was not so excited as I was in so much pain each month.
The time that we were to start, my younger sister got married and I was not at home when I needed to be. I remember at that time, sitting and crying out to God why we could not have children. Within three weeks I was calling the doctor to get in, as I was experiencing pain I had never experienced. I was told to get a pregnancy test, even though I fought with the nurse to see the doctor. The sweet woman gave in and told me to get the test done first and then she would schedule the appointment with the doctor. I did not need to see the doctor as I was pregnant with my first daughter after four years of knowing that I could not have children.
The pain alone, of not having children, was enough without the “encouragement” of some of my family. I was told “God has a plan,” “God will give you a child some day, it is just not the right time” and others. Family would shy away from my chances to reach out for support. I knew in my head it was true, but try telling my heart that I will have to accept not having a child. I got to where I could not go over to my in-laws, because I was reminded of how I wanted children, but my sister-in-law who was pregnant did not want them. It was such a struggle to allow myself to accept what God had given us without being reminded of it. It was also a struggle that helped my husband to eventually stand up for me.
When my sister got pregnant, she was nervous to tell me. My mom stepped in and told her to tell me. I will always rejoice that she told me. She knew how it hurt for me not to get pregnant, but she loved me enough to tell me. I was happy for her.
Many months passed with tears and aches that I could not describe. Mother’s Day was not a day I wanted to be sitting in church. God gave us a pastor and his wife that also struggle with that same issue. God put our pastor in our church for a reason. I had to listen to it for three years before I was able to take it to heart. That same pastor was able to rejoice with us as we brought three girls into this world. I also had a great friend that God gave me to lean on and be leaned on. She too struggles with infertility and could understand each month the disappointment of the empty womb. I eventually found a book that helped me: When Empty Arms Become a Heavy Burden by Sandra Glahn and William Cutrer. While writing this, I think back on what we went through and how God’s plan was in place the whole time. If I had gotten pregnant in 1997, we would not have been able to have my husband go on for further school or be where we are today. He was in charge back then and in 2002 when I got pregnant for the first time. It is something I can look back on, but when I was going through it, it was not an easy task. I found that my husband and I had many prayers going up to God on our behalf. What a wonderful feeling that our families were quietly supporting us during a hard time and then loudly proclaiming their joy to answered prayer. I never want to be used as an example for people to use on their infertile relatives – “See! She got pregnant! So will you!” Whenever I am asked, I tell the pain and struggles that I endured so that I could be that someone to encourage others with their struggles. I understand the pain of not being able to have children.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” II Corinthians 12:9-10
It was the only thing I had ever wanted. It was the only role I ever really dreamed about starting back when I was a very little girl. Of course everyone is different – some dream of fame and fortune. Some dream of their wedding day. I dreamed about being called, “Mama.” Isn’t it humbling how God, in His sovereignty and infinite knowledge of us … and the way He’s promised to work in our lives to conform us more and more to the image of His Son, will do whatever He has to do to best get our attention …
We had been married a few years. We were “ready” in all the ways from the outside looking in to begin to add little people to our family and heritage. So we began hoping that someday soon we would join the ranks of those complaining about not sleeping, like, ever. Month after month it didn’t happen. Finally we got to the place where we had to acknowledge that something wasn’t right which was confirmed very soon with a trip to the doctor’s office.
“You will very likely never conceive a child without some form of fertility assistance. I can refer you to a fertility specialist to review your options.” It was an instant heartbreaking blow that I had never even considered and I was in the shortest of moments on the path to what would become years of tears in secret and discouragement and watching what seemed like everyone around me living out my dream.
When ministering to a sister in Christ who struggles with infertility, as with any life-changing and painful event, there is really no one-size-fits-all approach. For me, I had to struggle ALONE through the initial stages. I didn’t tell anyone – not even my best friend or my mom. It was too fresh and too raw. Eventually (after six months or so) I got to where I could talk about it and we started telling those closest to us. Now, nearly a decade later, everyone knows. We talk openly about it basically with ease. That doesn’t mean I’m past moments of tears and frustration but I am to the point where my pain is more predictable so I can deal with it more publicly and with a little more grace than I used to know how to do.
There will be events in an infertile woman’s life that will force her to start essentially from scratch in her process of grief and often she won’t see it coming. For me, I find no problem being happy for many who can have a baby, even when I’m sad for me with the reminder that it’s still not and likely never will happen for me. But the blow that brought me to my knees all over again was when a very close woman in my life announced her pregnancy and I could not see how God would allow her, with her choices and lifestyle, to become pregnant. My life spun out of control in the time it took to listen to someone tell me the news in a simple sentence on the phone. The news came out of nowhere and was debilitating. I was actually far more affected by the news of her pregnancy than I’d ever been with the news of my own un-pregnancy over and over and over.
Try to remember that infertility is one of the issues that can take decades to actually resolve, which is unique in some ways to other sources of emotional pain. If a woman finds out she is infertile early in her 20’s (as I did) she will likely hope, once a month, that it’s finally her turn until it’s no longer possible. And in my case, we have been medically advised that we CAN become pregnant, we just likely won’t. So I personally have a dangling carrot until I start menopause, which could still be a decade away.
Choosing adoption to grow a family, though amazing and beautifully theological, can still leave a woman on the outside as many of us long to know the feelings of carrying a child and going through the rite of passage of labor and delivery and all that goes with all of that. We know we’re missing out and that can be an additional source of nagging sadness.
Here are some thoughts on how to serve those who struggle in this way: This might be one of those unique situations where “Just say something” may not be helpful. For me, it was all I could do to want to join people in their events for fear of an untimely and embarrassing show of waterworks. But by giving her a note or a card, telling her you’re praying for her and you’re there if she needs to talk (something she can read in private) – with this you can’t go wrong.
Then, if she ever does seek you out, choose your words carefully and try not to give too much advice. If you have something you think she should see, pose it in the form of a question is a soft way to minister truth.
And most importantly, PRAY!
- Pray for her to get the desire of her heart.
- And if that’s not the path God chooses, pray for peace that passes understanding.
- Pray for grace that she might enjoy children and families and friends who have them.
- Pray for her marriage – some marriages don’t make it through infertility.
- Pray for her wisdom as she seeks to do the will of the Father in “pursuing her options” to grow her family.
- Pray for her endurance and her heart to not become bitter. Pray for strength for her to be able to use it and other life experiences to minister to others.
- Ultimately, pray for her to be sensitive to the working of The Lord through this particular struggle and to seek to be a steward of her suffering so that it may finally result in His glory and her good.
Each strand of sorrow has it’s place
Within the tapestry of grace
So through the trials I choose to say
Your perfect will in Your perfect way.
“Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.” Psalm 62:8
In Her Shoes – Widows
We’ve been given two more priceless gifts. These testimonies honor God from a depth many of us have never experienced: widowhood. And I do not take their words lightly.
Just like everyone reading this article, and every woman we have learned from thus far, each and every widow has unique needs. My prayer is that these testimonies will help you and I approach our widowed friends without fear, abounding in compassion.
It’s been five years since that haunting and catastrophic event which brought my whole world to a crashing standstill. On that fateful day, when I came upon my husband in a state of unconsciousness, little did I suspect that it was the end! The doctor’s pronouncement of death came as a real big blow and I was thrown into a state of shock and unbelief. How could it be, Emmanuel had not even complained of having a common headache! He was so hale and hearty up to the time that he retired to bed leaving me behind in our living room watching my favorite television show.
Picking up the pieces has not been easy. Thank God for the strong network within our community, family and friends stood solidly behind me which was wonderful. Standing on the word of God, my church played a very important role by offering me spiritual consolation. This was really useful and provided me with the needed strength to cope.
To all who find themselves in a similar situation, take heart and look up to God for succor. Rest assured, you are not alone and so do not succumb to depression or even give room in your heart for suicidal thoughts.
God has a special place in His heart for widows and fatherless children. The Israelites’ spirituality was measured, in part, by how they treated the fatherless and widows. There are many references in God’s Word to helping widows.
and afterward receive me to glory.”
and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
Joyfully His, Sara