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infertility

Finding Hope in Unmet Longing by Nikki Dunham

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Finding Hope in Unmet Longing by Nikki Dunham

This guest post is part of the Good Ways blog series, a collection of stories and practices for finding God in hardship.


We all grow up envisioning what our lives will look like in the years to come. We fantasize and create expectations of what life will be like. But what happens when our plan is not God’s plan? What happens when the deepest desires of our hearts are not met?

Four years ago, my husband, Seth, and I decided to set out on the journey to grow our family. We eagerly anticipated decorating a nursery, cuddling with our baby, and creating traditions with our kids. These were all things we hoped and anticipated God had in store for us, but we could not have predicted the adventure he would take us on. After over a year of trying it was clear that this journey would not be as easy as we had hoped. The darkness began to set in. Questions began to fill our hearts. Simply facing the facts and scheduling an appointment with a fertility specialist was an act of surrender. But as we began testing and met with the doctor, a new hope began to sprout. It didn’t last long.

As each cycle of treatment failed, the darkness settled and began to choke out any hope. We confided in family and a few close friends, which slightly eased the pain, at least for a time. But the disappointment at the end of each cycle sank deeper with every passing month. Baby announcements and baby showers turned into monthly photo updates, which turned into yearly photo updates—each one marking the time in which we were still waiting. Mother’s days passed, each year yet another reminder that I was still not a mother. We began to feel isolated. While we had friends who had similar experiences, no one we knew had endured it so long, and all had come out on the other side with a baby in their arms. 

And yet, I knew that God would be faithful. He has been faithful through all generations, why would he stop now? It was in those darkest moments I had to combat the lies of the enemy with the truths of my Father.

“You’re all alone.”

“I will never leave you or forsake you, when you pass through the waters, I will be with you, when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.”

“You’re not strong enough for this.”

“I am the strength of your life, you are more than a conqueror through my son.”

“Your life won’t be fulfilling unless you have a child.”

“I am more than enough for you.”

“All of this is in vain.”

“I work all things for the good of those who love me.”

 

It was in working through these truths that I found my way in the dark. Jesus came before and was walking with me still. I wasn’t strong enough for it, but God was. I am not defined by my lack of children; I am enough, just as I am. I didn’t have to wait until it was over, God would begin redeeming it right then. It was the perspective that by going through this, I now had something to offer others who are or will be hurting in the same way. This was the light that began to guide me out of the dark. 

I started a journal. I wrote the details of our journey, emotions, prayers, and questions. But all too often, I couldn’t find the right words. In those moments I turned to the words of others. I opened the scriptures. I listened to lyrics. In the words of other believers who have gone before me, I found the cry of my heart. So I made their words mine, writing and illustrating the words and feelings I was experiencing. It relieved the pressure to come up with the right words. It allowed me the freedom to simply be in that moment. 

But the journal wasn’t for me. It was meant to be shared, to allow other young women going through infertility to know they are not alone in the feelings and questions they have. To share the poems, scripture, and lyrics that brought peace and hope. While I haven’t had the opportunity to share the whole thing with someone yet, I have shared pages or excerpts from it. Even that has proven to be rewarding. Although this journal was certainly an extension of myself and the grief I felt, it took the focus off me. It gave my pain purpose. It gave me hope. If through this I could ease the pain of other women walking the same path, it was worth going through. 

Too often when going through trials we become completely self-focused. But when we can’t see beyond our situation, we miss out on where God is working in the midst of it. So don’t ignore the pain, but embrace it, and move forward through it. As of today, we still don’t have a baby in our arms. Your circumstances may never change, but your heart will. His story is far better than whatever we have imagined for ourselves. Allow the story God is writing for your life to transform you and extend the offer of transformation to others. It will be worth it.

So when you find yourself lost in the dark, consider journaling for those who will come after you. Someday, another will be walking the path you are, in search of the right words. Your journal may be just what they need. You might even find that in writing it, it is exactly what you need.

What do you include in the journal?

  • Thoughts and emotions
  • Questions
  • Prayers
  • Poems
  • Lyrics
  • Pictures
  • Sketches
  • Anything that has brought you hope

 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 
[2 Corinthians 1:3-4]


Nicole Dunham lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband Seth. She works with the Women’s Ministry at Church at Charlotte and as an athletic trainer for Novant Health. She spends her time keeping their two huskies out of trouble and volunteering with the high school ministry. A recent transplant from Colorado, she is still trying to find the mountains people are talking about but loves camping and exploring the Appalachian Hills.

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Grace in the Mess by Leah Renee Chambers

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Grace in the Mess by Leah Renee Chambers

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This guest post is part of the Good Ways blog series, a collection of stories and practices for finding God in hardship.


I remember sitting at an unknown burrito place with a good friend, perched at a hightop table, feeling so desperate. After several years of trying to get pregnant, undiagnosed infertility, and a failed bout with foster care, I had almost completely lost myself. We were trying to have an important conversation, about me, about us, and all I could think was, how is my face

Is it appropriately sad? Is it too sad? Am I scaring her by revealing too much? Am I sitting up straight enough? Am I holding my head right, are my gestures normal? Do I seem erratic? Should I tell her I’m not doing ‘fine’? Is this going to be the end of us? Does she still want to be friends? Does she see me as a diminished version of myself? But, wait. Was that self really myself? The one from before? If not, does that mean that THIS, this now, this self is myself? Because, oh God, if that’s true, what do I do now?   

Navigating life had always been easy for me, but it seemed desperately hard now. 

"Breathe" by Leah Renee Chambers

"Breathe" by Leah Renee Chambers

It seemed to me that all the ways I used to interact with friends, family, and God, had shifted without my permission—shifted to the point where the logic of them failed. Before, I would say this and they would say that, we would spend time talking and our friendship would grow. After, I would say something and they would respond strangely. We would go out to lunch and I would cry in the car afterwards, doubled over with tears and slashing pain. 

With friends, they would ask how I was doing, and I would freeze. I would try to be honest, but I never knew whether to answer for that particular moment, for the week, for my life? I would scare them sometimes. They really just wanted to hear that I was better, that things were looking up, that God was giving me peace. I wanted to tell them those things, but I also wanted to be truthful. I would try to be honest. Try to let them in. Try to be gracious in my pain. But most times, I would just get a side-arm hug and a “hang in there” as they walked away…as if I was radioactive. I knew that no one knew what to say, but I longed for them to say just that—that this situation was awful, and terrible, and I didn’t deserve it. That it was okay to be broken, okay to mourn, okay to be in the “middle” and not at “the end.” I wanted them to carry hope for me, assuring me that I was mendable, and my mended self would be breathtakingly beautiful. 

Mostly I just wanted them to say that they would be with me…no matter how ridiculous or awkward or broken I got. 

With God, I would try to worship. Try to pray. Try to read my Bible. Try to ask. Seek. In the past, that would have “worked,” and I would have grown closer to Him or found peace or hope. But in the midst of this clouded season, nothing seemed to do the trick. I wasn’t readily finding what I had always found in the past, and I also was thinking things about God that weren’t quite in line with the way I had thought before. If I remove myself from the standard faith responses of my younger self, what is left? What do I think God says? What promises can I cling to? What does it mean to have hope…real, godly hope? How much does He care?

All questions I couldn’t really answer. And God didn’t seem to be getting any closer while I floundered. 

"Grace" by Leah Renee Chambers

"Grace" by Leah Renee Chambers

One day, while walking through San Francisco on my morning commute, I had this urge to write a poem. So, before I could really think about it, I snapped a picture of the rainy street corner in front of me, typed three lines of un-rhyming verse onto it, and posted it to Instagram. 

And my soul breathed. 

In that single moment, I gave of myself fully. To myself I offered a valid space to be, without explanation, detailed analyses, or caveats. To others I offered a glimpse into my pain and my creativity. To God I offered an invitation, a longing, for Him to find me exactly where I already was. 

Startled and excited by that brief sensation of lightness, I started desperately looking and writing. Every day I would take a picture and attempt to put words to this life I was in the midst of. Many were dark, some were bright, and a few didn’t make any sense to anyone but me, but they were all true. 

Slowly, slowly, God found me there. I would see something that brought me joy, or I would hear a whisper of hope as I wrote a poem about my pain. I could physically feel the tightness start to loosen, and my soul seemed slowly won over by gentleness. I started to feel gratitude. And I started seeing, feeling, and sensing grace. 

I believe that was God doing His work…while I practiced offering myself, in gratitude and grace.  

A Practice

Take a moment today, to find your own glimpse of hope and beauty and truth. You don’t have to go anywhere special—stand in your kitchen, on your street, or under the sky. Breathe. And then look, and appreciate what you are being offered in this moment.

"Awake to Hope" by Leah Renee Chambers

"Awake to Hope" by Leah Renee Chambers

Stand there, and consider how you feel.  

How does your body feel? Is there a lightness in your feet? A heaviness in your chest? Do you feel grounded? Does your breath flow smoothly in your lungs?

Stand there, and look around you. 

What do you notice? What stands out to you? What do you hear? What is beautiful in your eyes? What isn’t beautiful? What does it offer to you? What might God be saying to you?

Take a picture and write a few words. 

The picture can be anything—your feet, a shadow, the sky, the corner of a cabinet. Try not to judge what words come up for you. Write them down. Appreciate them for what they are. Give thanks, and allow yourself to accept grace.  


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Leah Chambers is an artist and creative in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her poetic works call attention to the beauty and hope that exist in spite of the darkness. Find her at ontheflypoetry.com and on Instagram as @leahreneechambers.

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