Friday’s Rain (Week 5)

While I didn’t intentionally time this last week of Friday’s Rain to coincide with Memorial Day Weekend, I sure think it’s fitting.

Memorial Day is a time of remembrance – of both the losses and the victories. So too is this last week of the Study.

Writing Friday’s Rain has been a tremendous gift – and not a wee bit of a sacrifice – my husband gets big points in the sharing department! Week 5 is now live for download here. The downloads will remain active for a limited time. Thanks to all who have participated in this initial e-launch – stay tuned for more news of Friday’s Rain this fall!

Don’t Cancel the Celebration

It can get uncomfortable, right? Mother’s Day weekend is here. And there are all these rules now.

10 Ways to Make Mother’s Day Not Horrible

4 Things to Never Say on Mother’s Day

17 Ways you Could Destroy Your Church if you Hand Out Roses on Mother’s Day

12 Do’s and Don’ts for Retail Clerks this Mother’s Day

 Could you not? Thanks

I mean, it can get a little overwhelming. I’ve seen a lot of posts and comments and blogs about taming down the Mother’s Day hoopla to protect us non-moms out there. At grocery stores. Amongst friends. And at Church. I’ve got some messy thoughts on this messy subject.

I mean, the day is about Moms. And I’m not one. So it’s not my party. But there’s all this talk about how I should be treated on their day. Wha????

It’s gotten me thinking about how uncomfortable it is to be uncomfortable. Because many of the voices are speaking from pain. And I get it. My heart has bled on Mothers’-Days-Past as I wrapped my head around my unplanned unparenthood. But it’s also bled on Christmas and Fourth of July and days ending in Y. Pain is no respecter of holidays and dates.

And pain also isn’t satisfied with being just the boss of it’s victim – it wants to be the boss of everyone else in the room, too. Pain would love nothing more than to see a room full of people feeling awkward and unsure how or if to celebrate something because it will make someone uncomfortable.

This isn’t a post about liking pain. I don’t like pain. I don’t like discomfort. I’m not the girl who signs up for the gym because it-hurts-so-good. Also, I don’t sign up for the gym for any other reason.

But I do know that pain and celebration can happen at the same time. That they can GIVE to one another instead of taking away. That there’s this sacred dichotomy of grief and celebration happening all around us every. single. day. And if we let it, it can make us stronger.

A few years ago, my bright-eyed-newlywed baby sister and I were getting some last-minute Christmas shopping done. Now, before this story continues, you should know some important details about this sister of mine. She is ten years my junior, surpasses me in all things hair and makeup, is an opera singer and a beauty queen (literally) but somehow not a drama queen. Oh, and she farts rainbows.

So there we were. As we crossed the parking lot, her little button nose wrinkled up at the scent of grease wafting towards us from the local fast-food restaurant. “What, are you pregnant?” I asked, jokingly-because-of-course-she’s-not-pregnant-she’s-a-baby-and-babies-can’t-have-babies-what-a-funny-joke-I’m-making-ha-ha-ha-ha. But then her eyes widened, her feet stopped, and she silently nodded yes.

You guys, my world fell out. I’d traversed hundreds of pregnancy announcements from the time we started “trying”, but my BABY sister was going to have a BABY?

Nothing humbles you faster than the ugly cry. In public. In a parking lot.

And bless it, that was my reaction to my baby sister’s news. It definitely wasn’t the way she wanted to deliver it; it definitely wasn’t the way I wanted to receive it. But holy cow am I ever glad that neither of us had a chance to be fake in that moment. I’m so glad we didn’t have time to prepare or take deep breaths or brace ourselves or plan speeches. I’m so glad there was no time for white gloves.

Together we hugged and cried and wiped snot (our own, not each others, thank you), and we found our way THROUGH it, not around it.

And you know what, it was hard. Like hard-hard. At Christmas she announced their news to the whole family. She made cute little jerseys for each of the cousins, all the littles that make up the family “team”. Each had their number, their birth order number, on the back. It was adorable. And painful as hell. Because with each kid that unwrapped a jersey number, 1-9, and as my parents opened their “surprise Number 10”, I was sitting there with a big fat zero.

But my zero and her 10 were two totally completely separate things happening. They were both happening at the same time, but they were not the same thing.

Celebrating her was not a way of not celebrating me. And we had to learn that. Together.

With the snot-fest out of the way, we got to have real-real conversations throughout her pregnancy. I was honest when it was hard. She was honest when it was hard. Spoiler alert: sometimes it can be just as hard to figure out how to celebrate while someone you love grieves, as it is to figure out how to grieve while someone you love celebrates.

Every day we encounter those who are grieving and those who are celebrating. Sometimes we know it – often we don’t.

At every wedding, there is someone grieving the pain of divorce.

At every birthday party, there is someone grieving the death of a loved one.

At every baby dedication, there is someone in the room feeling the ache of empty arms.

At every Church service, there is a mama celebrating as her son walks with the Lord while another mama grieves as her son has walked away from Him.

At every grocery store and fairground and park and office and schoolroom there is a heart that is full and a heart that is empty. 

So should we stop celebrating these things? Should we just tame it by saying “you know what? Every woman gets a rose today – so no one feels left out.”

Please don’t give me a rose on Mother’s Day. Please give it to those who didn’t get a full night’s sleep. Who have wiped snotty noses. Who respond to “why?” and “what for?” and “how?” hundreds of times a day. Who juggle soccer schedules and math homework and dinner menus like a champ.

Because celebrating her is not a way of not celebrating me. I want us to teach each other that. Together. In my Community, my Church, my Family, I don’t want us to tame the celebration, and I don’t want us to tame the grief. I want to be in a place where both grief and celebration have a chance to play into one another and say “aha, yes, I see you there.” I want both to be okay. Because both are okay. Even when it hurts. Even if it’s uncomfortable. Because it’s okay to be uncomfortable. Really.

Let’s trade tame for real this Mother’s Day. And every day.

P.S. Pain doesn’t have to STAY the boss of any of us. In fact, that’s why I wrote “Friday’s Rain“.

FRIDAY’S RAIN: revealing what grief washes away [new E-Bible-Study]

Friday's Rain Card - Choose Joy 2015 copy FRIDAY’S RAIN: revealing what grief washes away

Week 1 of 5 is now available as a free download HERE. Each Sunday for the next four weeks I’ll be releasing the next week’s study – email subscribers will receive it DIRECTLY in their Inbox. SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL HERE

I’d love to know about your journey through this E-Study. Post thoughts, comments or questions here on this site or via Facebook or Instagram.

Standing in the storm with you,

just name

Are you one-in-a-_________? Me too.

Being one brings pain. Being one-of-a brings power.

A few weeks ago I talked my man into taking a day trip up to LA to enter the Newsies lottery for day-of tickets at the Pantages. And by talked into I mean I said “hey you wanna do this?” and he said “yeah”. I know, I’m really very convincing.

We got in line right on time (rule-follower here), and they said they’d be lottery-ing (is that a word?) 26 tickets. Several of us started counting. There were about 26 of us in line. Boom.

But then all these other people started showing up. Not on time. I’m just sayin’. By the time they called tickets, there were a lot more than 26 entries. Sigh. Our chances were now about 1 in 5.

About halfway through the call-outs, I hear my name.

It was a good day to be one in five.

Here’s my cheesy smile to prove it.

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And really, being one-in-a-___________ is awesome when you’re winning something.

But there are other days that one-in-a-_________ is a punch in the gut. I’m one in eight women experiencing infertility. One in about eighty experiencing infertility without any explanation.

As National Infertility Awareness week ends, I find it no small coincidence that this very morning I’ll be in a room filled with brave stories at the Choose Joy conference, sharing both smiles and tears. There’s something fiercely powerful about bringing a bunch of one-in-a’s into the same room together.

And the awareness doesn’t end with a week. Having my own one-of-a story has made me all the more aware of the many other one-of-a stories being lived out around me …

… like a nine-year-old cancer warrior with rare genetic disorder that makes him susceptible to recurring cancer – chances are one in about 1.4 million.

… like having an in-utero test to tell you whether your baby has Down’s syndrome because other factors make the chances about one in forty.

… like a cancer that’s so rare it doesn’t even have a name and is only fatal when combined with another rare condition, both of which your husband had – chances are one in a million. Squared.

The thing about being a one-of-a is that you feel so utterly alone when the diagnosis is handed down. And you are. I mean, no one else has ever been you, facing this specific circumstance at this time in history.

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But I think we tend to focus on the “I’m one” and miss the “of-a” part. That’s the powerful part. That’s the part that tells you that you. are. not. alone. That’s the part can happen over a simple cup of coffee or over instagram or at a gathering or anywhere in between. Just last night, as a Choose Joy speaker shared her story of infertility, bringing us laughter as the ridiculousness of hormones and the pee sticks and the what-not is a shared experience in the room, a woman turned around to her husband and mouthed “see, I’m normal.

Isn’t that exactly what we need to hear when we find out we are one-in-a-________? See, I’m normal. I’m one-of-a-new-normal.

So sister, whether you’re one-in-a-handful or one-in-a-million, you. are. not. alone. Find your people. Find your “of-a”. They need you just as much as you need them.

IMG_1501

Empty Tomb > Empty Womb

It’s not just the word-play, though I’ve always been a fan of those. Not puns, mind you, but word-play.

Empty Tomb. Empty Womb. I know the second one very well. I’ve written about it plenty. Much like Peter, I found myself lost on ‘Friday’, struggling with a storm of unexpected emotions.

Maybe you’ve got an empty space that’s stirred up a storm, too.

I spent a couple years trying to hold those emotions at bay. I’m not saying I did keep them at bay, but I gave it a valiant effort. But when the dam broke, I had to dig in to my empty place because you can’t heal from what you don’t first acknowledge.

I had to spend some time listening to my Empty Womb.

Because then I was able to listen to the Empty Tomb.

Which tells me that after death, life can be found.

That loss doesn’t have the last word.

That my story has a different ending than I’d expected. And a different beginning.

When Jesus rose, the grave was still the most logical place to find him. It’s where the disciples knew to go. And where they were asked one of the most philosophically-driven questions that Scripture presents: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

Why indeed. I think it’s because it’s where we know to look. If we’re in mourning for something lost, for whatever is our EMPTY PLACE, then that’s where we know to go. Where we know to search. In fact, I’d say it’s where we need to start. But it’s not where we need to finish.

Yes my womb is still empty, but so is Christ’s tomb.

What about you? What is your EMPTY today? Have you gone there? Do. Even if you’re scared. Go there and search. Run like Peter did. It’s where you’ll find out where to find Jesus. And maybe He’ll be right there when you turn around, with a clear-cut answer, like He was for Mary. Or maybe you’ll just get a clue, a hint, a reminder, and later He will find you while you’re at work. Like Peter.

The Empty Tomb tells our empty places that hope may look quite different than we’d thought, but Hope is nonetheless alive. And his name is Jesus.

Happy Empty-Tomb day, friends.

400 and 26 [NIAW]

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” –Henry David Thoreau 

This past week’s series has been an invitation to look through the eyes of my infertility for a moment, as part of the NIAW (National Infertility Awareness Week). It seemed most fitting, then, to end this week by sharing a friend’s blog post that I’m told was inspired by this series. May I invite you to look through another set of beautiful eyes … 

Redwoods

Last week, I drove 400 miles to a Writer’s Conference in the Redwoods. Each mile would have been worth it for the sake of meeting just this one  new friend: Robynne Miller Feaveryear. Her heart is as big as her name, and our paths crossed before we knew it, as we have both experienced the sacredness of an empty womb amidst a full life.

We “met” through the exchange of manuscript samples – on the most holy of anniversaries. And upon meeting in real life, well, let’s just say there was a lot of laughter, a few tears, and I learned a lot about the prairie. Robynne is a Modern-Day Pioneer Mama who will teach you much more than just how to make your own laundry detergent, and still love ya even if you use Tide Pods like, ahem, someone.

So without further ado and in honor of the end of awareness week (but not of awareness), I introduce you to Robynne, mama to 31 littles, 26 of whom she never got to meet …

26.  Yes, that’s correct.  TwentySix

This huge, ridiculous, appalling number represents the babies I didn’t have.

Some people call them “miscarriages,” as if their precious little hearts never beat and their brains never sent miraculous waves of energy pulsing through their sweet, tiny bodies. But I can’t reduce them to “tissue” that was never meant to be.  They’re my children . . . even if I didn’t get the chance to raise them.

And I miss them all.  Deeply.

I’m not sure I’ll ever know the “why” behind such a large number of losses. I’m not sure I need to. 

Continue reading here …

That Time I was Given a Label [NIAW]

Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” –Henry David Thoreau

This is a week-long series to invite you to look through the eyes of infertility for a moment, as part of the NIAW (National Infertility Awareness Week). This is not a series about the medical condition of Infertility – you can find facts here if interested. Instead, this series is dedicated to the heart’s awakening to emptiness – and ultimately, to life. Even without an answer. Each day this week, I’ll be sharing a letter that I penned throughout this journey of infertility, as I tried to find words to describe the silent experience. Days filled with hope, cynicism, laughter, tears – and sometimes all at once.

One in eight couples are experiencing infertility right now – about 7.3 million. We are 1 in 8.

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“Oh, so you’re infertile.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa – let’s not go throwing labels around there, Doc.

The objection was clear in my head – the actual words that came out of my mouth were a bit more stutter-y … “I, uh, well, I don’t know, if, well, but, I … we’re just … under a lot of stress right now.”

“You’ve been having unprotected sex for a year and you’re not pregnant. So you’re infertile.”

And BAM, just like that I had a label.

The doctor wasn’t wrong, he was stating clinical fact – and it’s not that I need to be coddled – it’s just that, well, it wasn’t a label I was ready for. It took me another year to use the label for myself. Somehow, taking on that label felt like an admission. An acceptance. Of something I was all too unwilling to accept.

The thing about labels is we know that they can’t capture who we really are. We know that. But still we fight against them as if they will brand us permanently.

Am I infertile? No, I’m a woman who is experiencing infertility. But also yes, I am infertile. Will I be forever? I don’t know – that’s not part of the diagnosis. I just know I have been for seven years.

Some of my reasons to avoid the label “infertile” included:

  1. It would mean admitting I was truly actually trying. That’s a vulnerable thing. To declare to the world that you are trying at something that for many comes naturally – or even accidentally.   Not just casually you-know-whatever-if-it-happens-it-happens. If I’m the married girl who doesn’t happen to have kids yet but isn’t trying, I’m just a happy childless girl. But if I’m infertile, it tells the whole world that in my most intimate of relationships and desires, I am trying – and coming up empty.
  1. Labels suck. They just do. They can’t ever be fully true. And a lot of them are painful. Widow. Orphan. Cancer patient. Infertile. They describe something we’re experiencing, but not who we are. Somehow, though, the person often gets lost in the label. I was afraid of getting lost. No longer being me, but being the infertile girl. A stigma. Something to be pitied.
  1. Infertility is awkward. Let’s just admit it, it is. From the lame jokes about “are you sure you know how it works?” to the uncomfortable silence when a friend tries to find the words to tell you that SHE’s pregnant while you are not. It’s awkward. Procreating is one of the most natural human experiences and involves the most intimate of human interactions, so whether you like it or not, placing yourself out there as an “infertile couple” is going to be awkward, because your sex life just became open for discussion.

But perhaps most of all, hearing that label – pronounced so abruptly – left me feeling broken. I could no longer hide behind “we just didn’t get the timing right this month”, or “we just have to get through this stressful season” or “I ate the wrong foods this month” or the myriad of other excuses you come up with when answers aren’t making sense.

Now, six years after that fateful labeling-moment, there’s no doubt that the label fits. There are no medical explanations, but our bodies don’t make babies. After I learned to accept the label as a description of part of my life but not my whole life, using it became easier. But sometimes – somedays – there’s still that bruise from the initial label. It’s usually when something breaks. A couple weeks ago I set out to bake. I rarely bake. But I’d had a few days off in a row and I thought I’d celebrate with a morning baking project. I diced the mango and mixed the oats and started dreaming of the smells that would fill my home, the smile that would cross my husband’s face when he came home to his little Suzy-homemaker, not to mention the nom-nom factor I was expecting for my own tastebuds. Then I opened the oven. Which was still cold. Though I’d turned it on 20 minutes prior. Broken.

I know, I know – it’s just an oven. But it’s a broken oven. I want to label it “Broken” and call up the shipping company to haul the brand-new-oven-turned-piece-of-junk out of here. See, my tolerance for broken things changed when I realized that my uterus was one of them. It’s just an oven, but it’s a trigger, too. Reminding me that some things are just supposed to work – and they don’t.

This week’s letter is one I penned many moons ago as I discovered that we had a new label awaiting us: “Unexplained Infertility”, which affects about 10% of infertile couples. I know, I know, we’re in the top 10% of something – woot!

Dear Doctor,

I will do it. I will give you more blood. I am 100% powerless in this, so I will comply with your process – again. You’re not the first doctor I’ve talked to, you know. Probably won’t be the last.

You’re not the first to start the conversation with a sympathetic nod and insightful questions to “figure me out”. You probably won’t be the last to finish the conversation perplexed, since my reproductive system hasn’t offered a lot of clues.

So, here is my blood. Take it, analyze it. I’m pretty sure I know what you’ll find. I think you’ll tell me I’m fine, and healthy, and “would make such a damn good mother”, yet here I sit, with nothing but a skimpy gown between you and me, looking at a calendar and analyzing body fluids, informing you of all the intimacies of my healthy sex life, including date and time.

I remember when I used to be scared of what you would find, what the results would show – something terrible that had to be fixed. Or worse, couldn’t be fixed. I didn’t really think of this option: finding nothing wrong. Having no “answer”. Having nothing to fix.

I like you, doctor. I really do. I appreciate all your efforts and tests. I just need you to know, though, that at the end of the day, I think we are both playing here – playing house, playing doctor – you remember the games. Because if we’re not playing, then it’s real. And I hate remembering it’s real.

So, when you call or email me and tell me that all the results are normal, that I’m perfectly healthy and we just need to “give it time”, I will smile and nod, because you see, I’ve played this game before.

Post-script: Email from Doctor the following week read: “Your blood test looks good.” Called it.

Welcome, Friend

Easter Sunday is, to me, like welcoming a good friend. A time to throw your arms wide and say “WELCOME, LIFE!”

Tulips

Sometimes it’s a fling-wide-the-door and run outside with an exuberant “welcome!” as you dash into His arms. Perhaps when we are least self-conscious.

Sometimes it’s a sigh-filled “welcome back” after a long absence. Perhaps after a particularly long Friday-season.

Sometimes it’s a shy “you’re welcome to be here”, because sometimes it’s still so surprising that He WANTS to be.

Sometimes it’s a “welcome, make yourself comfortable in the mess”, because the mess is all we have to offer.

Sometimes it’s a simple, whispering “welcome home”. Perhaps when we are most sure that He belongs.

Sometimes it’s with balloons and flowers and a long-line of friends holding “welcome” signs, because you’ve been eagerly watching.

Welcoming Sunday is about welcoming the God who took death, and made life. And who is still doing so today. Jesus, the Bible says, was the first prototype of life coming FROM death, not just AFTER death.

Whether from an empty tomb, an empty womb, or any other empty place that Friday revealed, God is – STILL – in the business of bringing forth life. What a God of mystery. What a Hero to worship. What a Friend to have in Jesus.

Welcome, Sunday. Welcome, Friend.

Infertility: Remembering Friday – My Messy Beautiful

Sometimes I wish I was still oblivious.

I wish that I didn’t know what the effects of child abuse looks like.

I wish that I didn’t know what a last breath sounds like.

I wish that I didn’t know what an empty womb feels like.

 

Unplanned Unparenthood

While I’ve discovered beauty from ashes …While I’ve learned to embrace the rain as much as the rainbow … While my heart swells when I pay attention to all the ways love wins …

Sometimes I’d still rather just not know about the battle love had to fight.

And to me, knowing is what Good Friday is all about. It’s about stopping, pausing, and being honest for a minute about the days that aren’t bright and sunny. The days that bring questions and sometimes shocking, painful answers.

Like the day that Jesus died.

I so get Peter. I so totally and completely get Peter. He watched Jesus be arrested and then killed on a tree. And he spiraled.

Good Friday was the biggest disappointment of all time. And Peter was an eye-witness.

I’ve spiraled, too. My big disappointment – my Friday – hit like a mack truck when infertility became part of my story a few years ago. The pain is no longer raw, but neither does it just go away. And Good Friday is simply a day to remember.

It’s interesting to me that it coincides with the beginning of  National Infertility Awareness Week this year. Just as Good Friday is a day pause and take stock, to be aware of what redemption cost, NIAW is a week of intentional knowing about infertility.

Sometimes awareness is used as an excuse to build sympathy, or worse – guilt. Lord spare me from that train-wreck.

I’m a fan of Henry David Thoreau’s idea of awareness when he asks “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”

So in honor of Good Friday, Messy Beautiful Warriors everywhere, and NIAW – but most of all in honor of the story I’ve been given to tell – I’m going to invite you to see through my eyes for an instant.

Each day next week, I’ll be sharing snippets of letters I’ve written over the years as I’ve tried to give voice to a silent pain. My hope is not so much that you understand me better through it, but that you’ll be able to see a glimpse of just how sacred loss can be, and discover with me the majesty of a God who dares to breathe life into death.

Today’s letter was penned just after I got home from a Good Friday church service a few years ago. I had listened to more than just the Pastor’s words – his body language was screaming as he squirmed with discomfort talking about the day Jesus died.

Dear Pastor,

I know, I know, you aren’t comfortable with Friday. You want to rush through the devastation of Friday so you can get to your Sunday sermon.

But some of us are experiencing our own Friday. Some of us are sitting here with broken hearts, broken hopes, broken dreams, broken expectations, and broken plans – much like Peter was.

Peter was one of Jesus’ best friends. He walked on water. He proclaimed him as the Messiah. But that Friday, he was the guy who denied even knowing Him. That Friday, Peter saw things about himself and his God that he didn’t want to be true. That he couldn’t believe were true.

Peter saw Jesus die.

And I bet there were still days – even after Sunday – that Peter wished there’d been no Friday. I bet there were days he just wanted his friend back.

Because Friday hurt. Friday was dark, and painful, and ugly, and terrifying, and opened places of his own soul that Peter wishes he’d never seen. And certainly wishes no one else had seen.

Each of us has our Fridays. Those days, weeks, months, or years of broken dreams.

And I have to tell you – I take comfort in knowing that Jesus gets it. He gets me. He’s had other friends with broken hearts and broken dreams, and they made it through. Which tells me I can, too. But first they survived Friday.

And to be honest, most Christians I know want to jump to Sunday – to skip the pain and get straight to the celebration. I can’t help but wonder if Peter would have punched someone in the face if they’d tried to tell him on Friday just how “good” it was.

I guess the thing is, Sunday didn’t erase Friday. In fact, Friday is really what made Sunday matter.

So all I’m asking, Pastor, is to just let it be Friday sometimes. Let the dream be broken. Let the disappointment be felt. Let it hurt. Let it suck. Let it be confusing.

Let me know that there’s a place for me here, whether I’m in a state of Sunday-praise, or Friday-pain. 

*This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!