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.

Surprising the Brain

White BucketThe Brain Bucket. I’m told that’s a thing. I’m told that by a guy named Jon Acuff, who makes me laugh enough to believe that everything he says is true.

So the Brain Bucket. He said our brains are wired in such a way that when we see or hear something we’ve come across before, we Bucket it. “Yep, been/seen/heard that before.” And we continue on with other distractions.

This. Is. So. Me. I used to drive professors crazy because once my brain got something, it placed it in the bucket and was done with them and their teaching. I was known for playing solitaire in the back of the room (back in the days of dinosaurs when the internet was not in every classroom and solitaire was all I had). And it really wasn’t out of disrespect, it was just because my brain wanted to move on to something else once the brain bucket was full of that topic. You can imagine how much my husband loves this feature whenever he’s sharing his heart with me.

So, says Jon, getting past the Brain-Bucket-tune-out for things like spiritual lessons and lifetime truths requires a way to “surprise the brain”. Keep things interesting. Introduce an old truth in a new way.

Backs of books? Hate ‘em. Movie trailers? No, please. I want to be surprised.

So a few Sundays ago – one of those gloriously leisurely mornings – we lounged our way through YouTube videos and MY BRAIN GOT SURPRISED.

Oh my gosh. Oh my GOSH.

Exhibit A: Holy vocal pipes.

Chills, right? I mean, I was crying. CRYING. See, everyone’s brain – including mine, and most definitely Simon Cowell’s, had Brain-Bucketed this guy. Heavy guy shows up on stage wearing sweat pants and floppy hair. Sure, go ahead and wow us. He’s shy and nervous and you can just feel yourself bracing for the mockery. The crowd is snickering already. He’s been Brain-Bucketed as someone who does not have talent. And then he puts the microphone to his mouth. And the room is literally blown away. The power. The MAJESTY of this guy’s voice. Are you kidding me!? HE just did THAT!? Everyone’s Brain got Surprised. Ah-maz-ing.

Exhibit B: Am I allowed to, umm, laugh?

A boy with cerebral palsy. And he thinks he’s a comedian. And his parents have brought him here to audition. It’s cute. And heart warming. But you can almost feel yourself cringe as you hope he might be good but you’re pretty sure he won’t be. I mean, let’s just hope that Simon isn’t too mean to the sweet handicapped boy, right? He’s been Brain-Bucketed in the sympathy bucket, but there’s no bucket for “funny handicapped kid”.

And then he comes out on stage – to a vicious audience that has just destroyed the auditioner that came before him. Rightfully so, but still brutal. The cringe-factor in your heart intensifies.

But his first joke is funny. You dare to chuckle. His next line is even funnier than the last. Hey, this kid may be onto something. By the time his audition is done, everyone – including Simon – has a general laugh in their heart because The Handicapped Kid is Really Funny. Their brains got surprised.

Exhibit 3: Shadows aren’t just for puppets.

Yes, total coincidence that this post is dedicated exclusively to Britain having Talent. This is not a sponsored post.

But the shadows. HELLO!? How are they doing that with their bodies!? I mean, I know how they’re doing that – it’s light and dark and there’s a screen, blah blah blah. But my brain has no bucket for people making a shadow picture with their bodies like this. The beauty, the drama, the ELEPHANT.

YouTube is a playground for brain surprises.

Life is a playground for brain surprises. When I don’t relegate someone – including myself – to a predesigned brain-bucket, but am ready to hear or experience something new, I can actually have fun on life’s playground.

Now don’t get me wrong – not all surprises are good. Last year I had two brain-surprises collide in on me all at once. I was sitting at a conference having just learned that my husband had been fired. From a Church. I had no Brain-Bucket for that. There was no scandal, no job performance issue or moral failing to lead this Church to fire my husband, so my Brain was trying to process this whole new idea, and I have to confess that my dominant concern was expiring health insurance benefits.

Lost in my own health insurance woes, I was vaguely aware of something being set up on stage. A microphone and a chair and a guitar. And then a guy came out on stage. With no arms. No. Arms. This fact will be important in about one sentence.

He sat down and began to play Amazing Grace. With his feet. On the guitar. Beautifully. Not a modified-for-the-feet version of Amazing Grace, but a fully strummed, gorgeous rendition of this hymn. No. Brain. Bucket.

I had no way to explain to my brain that a guy was playing the guitar with no arms.

His story was then shared – he was born in Eastern Europe, where no arms was seen as a curse. Not only on him, but on his family and anyone who touched him. The result: He was turned over to an orphanage, but received virtually no touch, no cuddling, no attention beyond the absolute basic essentials of food and water. At eight months old, his medical file had not only his date of birth, but also his anticipated date of death. He was languishing, his body too weak to survive for long. He had been Brain-Bucketed as the cursed child with no arms and no future.

But a couple here in the United States got word of his file. They applied to adopt him. They were told they were crazy, that he’d probably die before they got him home and most assuredly thereafter. Still, they surprised everyone’s brains by saying “we want him.”

At age 8, his mom saw that he loved music. So she bought him a drumset and hired a drum teacher. This is the part of the story where, as her friend, I would have lovingly reminded her that HER SON HAD NO ARMS. So drums might be, you know, not as practical as, say, a set of headphones to feed his musical interest. My Brain has no Bucket for buying drumsticks for a boy who doesn’t have fingers to hold them! Thankfully hers did.

Because he thrived. He now plays eight different instruments, all of which traditionally require oh, you know, ARMS. It kind of put my health-insurance woes in perspective. It was still a hard year to rally from a job loss and the pain of separating from your home church, but I can’t tell you how many times my mind went back to that boy on stage. Playing Amazing Grace. With his feet.

He surprised my brain. His mom surprised my brain. Life surprises my brain. 

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get really comfortable with my set of brain-buckets and everything fitting within “what I already know”, but really, really I’d far rather live a life that my brain has to catch up to.

 

 

The Day A Puppy Crawled Into My Heart

I laid there in bed, staring at the ceiling, thinking of my responsibility-free life, and voiced out loud to my husband You realize, right, that these things can live up to, like, 15 years?

Yeah, why did we say yes to this, again?

I don’t know. But my mom said we can give it back if it doesn’t work out.

The next day, we met my mom to pick up our puppies – she had two “picks” from a litter as she finished up her chapter as a dog breeder. She had pre-picked a possible pup for us. And she was the cutest by far. But shy and timid, too. My husband spotted a rambunctious sister hopping around the yard and asked if we could consider her, too.

Since my experience in puppy-picking had last been exercised around age 10, I didn’t exactly have a game plan, but we stepped away from the people and the other pups to see which one of these we’d experimentally take into our home, again reminding ourselves that if it didn’t work out, no matter which one we picked, my mom would take her back.

We placed both pups down on the ground and I walked a few feet away before turning and saying “Here, puppy … “ to which the small one eagerly trotted over, while the rambunctious one wobbled her head and looked around.

Almost convinced, I tried one more test. I placed them both side by side again, walked a few feet away, and said “Here, Abby … “. Sure enough, as though she already knew that was her name, the small one trotted my way and the rambunctious one bounced and hopped in clueless circles.

So, did we choose our pup or did she choose us? I’ve often wondered.

Everyone likes a puppy. I mean, really, they are one of the cutest things this side of heaven. And a cavalier puppy – oh stop it, I mean there’s just no way to even describe the cuteness. Gone were the doubts of the night before.

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Until the night after. When this adorable ball of fur Would. Not. Stop. Whining. My responsibility-free life had just been rudely interrupted.

We stumbled through the first few nights with Abby in our home, charmed enough by day to try one more night, growing in sympathy for parents of newborns that have to wake up every two hours. But wary – very very wary – that even when she was full-grown and house-trained, she would still need things like food and water and attention, and we couldn’t just pack up our bags for a weekend without, you know, thinking about her.

I know, I know, the life of the childless is so easily interrupted.

Three days in, I sat my exhausted self down on the cold tile of my kitchen floor. And this little three-pound ball of fluff crawled right up into my lap, and into my heart. I can still see the moment so clearly, because she knew exactly where she belonged, and she’s insisted on that spot ever since.

She crawled into my heart that day as if to say that I wasn’t as carefree as I’d thought. As if to say there was a little puppy-shaped hole inside my heart that she was ready to occupy. I’d never thought of myself as a dog person – things like drool and barking and feces aren’t really my thing. Ironic since I’d been trying to have a baby, but at least they don’t bark.

And there I sat in my fuzzy white robe on the cold kitchen tile, realizing that there really was a space just for her. That I wasn’t really afraid of losing my responsibility-free-lifestyle, but I was afraid of caring for something too deeply, including a dog – or maybe especially a dog. Having a wee little life in our house that wasn’t the baby we’d been hoping for was at once comforting and alarming – I did not want to become “that couple” that treated their dog like their child (spoiler alert, that plan didn’t work. My last shred of personal dignity is that I don’t put my dog in people clothes).

All at once, I remembered my first dog – Heidi. She was a blonde cocker spaniel, with wild bangs that gave her personality. I got her when I was five years old. I can still see the sun shining through the trees as my mom and I went to pick her up. My very first dog.

When I was ten, my sweet, precocious Heidi was hit by a car. We were out of town when it happened and she had survived the hit, but was curled up beneath our porch in pain – her pelvis had been crushed. The vet gave us two options: she might survive a surgery, but it would mean losing at least one hip and back leg. The only tri-pod dogs I’d ever known were objects of jokes between my brothers, so I couldn’t imagine that life for her. The other option was to put her down.

In that moment I had to grow up a little bit. Do I put my dog down or try to save her?

I wish we had tried to save her.

But I didn’t know that until I sat on a cold tile floor and held this new, precious, vulnerable pup. I cried tears for my Heidi in that moment.

I have been governed by practicality for many years and many days. Little did I know that on the day this pup crawled into my heart, she was nudging out parts of my practical self. She would teach me to make decisions with my heart and not just my head. I would spend enough money on her little self to make someone say “e-gads” (also, I think “e-gads” should be reintroduced to our language). I would miss her when I left town. I would delight in the ways she loved me and others. I would marvel at the idea of a dog providing therapy. And no, not just to me. But maybe starting with me. And that’s okay.

She crawled into my lap and straight into my heart that day. After I picked myself up off the cold tile and crawled back into bed with my husband, I said Do you realize that she might live for, like, ONLY 15 years!?!?

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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 …

Oh the Questions I’ve Asked [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) (link). 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.

Clouds

I could dedicate a whole series JUST to the spiritual dynamic of infertility. I’ve asked more questions than I’ve had answers, though I’ve found answers to the most critical ones.

I’ve wrestled with this post because there is just no way – NO WAY – to capture the fullness or scope of this sacred conversation in one little post. The majesty and the mystery of sacred sadness fills many pages of Scripture. While my God’s character doesn’t need defending, I care very much about how He’s represented to a hurting world. I feel the weight of portraying just how good He truly is, while admitting just how many times I’ve questioned that in the midst of loss.

So I won’t try to accomplish in one wee post what acres of Scripture work to portray over generations of time. But for today, for one glimpse, I invite you to pull up a chair and listen in on one of the many conversations I’ve had with this good, mysterious God.

Dear God,

When I started this journey, questions flooded my mind. Why me? Why do you allow painful things for your children? Why are you withholding something good from me if you are my good Father?

I’m not sure those were wrong questions, but I am not sure they were entirely right, either. I think the real questions are simply this: who are You – really – and who am I – really?

I wonder if I’m any closer to knowing. Maybe in part.

Here’s what I know so far:

God, you are hard to understand. Intensely intimate and frighteningly distant. Jealous but kind. Firm but gentle. Generous yet controlled. Good but not safe. You give. And you take away. You are a mystery, yet worthy of trust.

I, too, am a deep mystery – even to myself. Hopeful yet despairing. Giving but oh-so-selfish. Jealous and bitter. Thankful and humbled. Trusting and yet suspicious.

I guess we make a fine pair. I know now a little bit of what Job felt when he realized He’d been searching for an answer for his pain and instead You responded with more questions. Not in a mean way but just, you know, reminding us both that we weren’t there when you laid the foundations of the earth and what not.

You don’t owe me answers – though I wouldn’t turn them down if you offered them. I kind of envision a long coffee date in heaven where You walk me through my story. But right here, right now, I don’t have answers to all my questions.

I have answers to the important ones, though, like what faith in You really requires, that You aren’t afraid of Friday or honest questions, that you allow pain, and yet are the God who brings life from death.

 

Welcoming Baby (when it’s not yours) [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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More than 200 babies have been born to our social circle since we first started trying. That means I’ve had, umm, a lot of practice in “the reaction” to pregnancy announcements, births, baby showers and first birthdays. I’ve cried, laughed, cursed, whimpered, scowled, celebrated, jumped, squealed and hid. Let me be clear: all the littles that fill our lives are SUCH a gift – it’s just that their arrival sometimes provides shock waves.

Truth told, it’s not always a friend’s first child that stops me in my tracks, but when they start popping out number two or even three, well, that’s a bit disorienting. It’s easy to feel like your feet are stuck in quick-sand while people are running laps around you.

But one of the sweetest announcements I ever received was from a friend who had also dealt with nearly a decade of infertility. A lot of people tell you “it will happen someday”, but in truth the odds are severely against that – chances of an infertile couple conceiving go DOWN each year, not up. With all the different emotions that can flood your mind when another pregnancy is announced, I think there’s also this heightened sense of awareness for the TTC (trying to conceive) community. Because you know what a miracle one little embryo is. Especially to someone who’s been told it would never happen.

This is a letter I penned years ago in celebration of one such miracle.

Dear Shan,

Ah my friend, today you have crossed into a new world.   Today, the day you gave birth to your beautiful baby boy, you are entering the-land-of-the-newborn. I hear it is a beautiful but sometimes terrifying place.

As you start this new journey, the first thing I want to say is “thank you”. Thank you for being my guide through the desert of infertility for so long. You spoke words to me that were exactly what I needed to hear. You knew when to stay silent. You let me rant, rave, cry, and nervously giggle when the emotions were all jumbled.

Thank you for sharing your heart so freely, because it helped me find my own. You gave me freedom and courage to be honest about this journey. I know you won’t ever forget your own nine-year journey through infertility, because it’s so much more than a physical journey, but not everyone is willing to share it, and you were. And that has meant the world to me.

And second, I want to say DRINK UP! You will always remember the desert, but you don’t live there anymore. So drink, drink, DRINK … drink in the smell of your baby. Drink in the magic of ten little perfect fingers and toes. Drink in the baby meows and coos and cuddles. Drink in the cutest chubbiest cheeks this side of the Mississippi. Okay, both sides of the Mississippi. Drink in the midnight feedings when it’s just you and him while the rest of the world sleeps. Drink in the attention and the oggling. Drink in the wonder that God opened your womb.

Don’t hold back. And don’t apologize. Not to me, not to anyone else still wandering their desert. Don’t hide your babe from us. Because we need to drink him in too … even if my story isn’t your story, I need to drink from the well of promise and hope that this baby boy represents. I need to hold him and cuddle him and laugh at all the adorb things that he inherited from you.

And I might need to cry. I might need to cry because I don’t get to keep him, because I don’t get to see my husband’s eyes in his. And because you are now entering a world that I might never relate to, never really understand. I will listen, and nod, and even chime in my overblown opinion from time to time, but probably won’t understand. Tell me about it anyways.

And I might need to brag, to celebrate that I don’t have to wake up every two hours. To sigh in relief because I’m not juggling life with a newborn. To go on and on about my trip to the Caribbean in this carefree childless life I lead.

Each moment – laughing, crying, bragging with you through this new chapter – is a tiny sip, a tiny dip into the well that reminds me that this sacred journey is not arbitrary and that for some, it’s not forever.

I LOVE YOU. So much. I’m SO excited for you and I’m already in love with his little face. So many new things lie ahead. So DRINK, savor, and celebrate my friend, for you are doubly blessed as God has trusted you with a desert and now, an overflowing oasis.

 

Bringing Sexy Back to Infertility [NIAW]

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

Resolve to know more. 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.

Keep Calm & Grab a Pee Stick

Infertility brings a lot of, shall we say, interferences. Things like thermometers and ovulation kits and charts can quickly take over your nightstand. Se-xy.

You might be dealing with the super-se-xy side of infertility if …

… you call out “hey Babe, can you grab me a pee stick?”

… a romantic whisper in your ear is “hey, did your temperature spike today?”

… you HAVE TO COME HOME RIGHT NOW. No, seriously. Like right now.

… balancing your chart and your checkbook take the same place on your things-I’m-not-excited-to-do-today-list.

In the midst of making trying to make a baby, sometimes you gotta fight for the sexy.

Today’s letter is in honor of all women everywhere who have turned to the help of thermometers, baby-making-charts, or a smiling pee stick to tell her if she’s ovulating.

Dear pee stick,

Yes you, the one with the smug smile. You’re such a punk. And I think you know it.

I just got you and your smug smile out of the box a few months ago. Because I don’t need you. Or so I want to believe. It’s no big deal having you around when you stare blankly. But on the day you smile, well, I kinda hate you on that day.

I want to throw my hands on my hips and tell you “you’re not the boss of me.” But then you smile patiently, and remind me that you are, actually. You call the shots here and tell me when it’s go-time.

By morning, you’re a science teacher, telling me something interesting about the chemicals in my body and that ovulation is nigh. By mid-afternoon you’re the obnoxious coach who won’t stop with the whistle – alright, already! By evening, you’re the wench in my bedroom.

The hardest part about having you in my life is that I know I will probably see your smug smile again next month, when we are trying. Again. I know this because 48 months of trying have taught me well. We will smile at each other, but only one of us will really mean it. 

So let me tell you something. I’m taking sexy back. I’ll patiently listen as you share your opinion. I’ll heed your advice. And I’ll happily give you credit if you ever earn it. The bathroom is yours, but the bedroom – that’s ours.

 

For more information on infertility, you may visit:

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.