Dear Sweet Sister

Dear sweet sister,

We've been friends for so many years now, we no longer have enough fingers to count them (but we definitely have the wrinkles). Ours is a special friendship -- the kind that can never end because we both know way too much and have far too many blackmail stories. You know the ones I'm talking about.

We've been there for each other through everything. The good and the bad. The happy and the sad. The breakups, the weddings, the losses, the gains, the broken bones and sprained ankles, first jobs, college years, new careers, the births of your children. Boy have we seen some things over the years! I want you to know I wouldn't change a moment of our friendship. I love you like a sister.

There's something else I want you to know. I've sensed the awkwardness between us because of my infertility journey. I know that you hurt for me and I know that you would give anything to make this go away for me because you are one of the kindest souls I've ever known. And I know you don't know how to talk to me about your pregnancy news, your gender reveal, your kids' big moments. So, often, you just don't. You don't want to appear to rub anything in my face. You're hoping it'll protect my heart.

Here's the deal, my precious friend: I love you and I love your children because they are a part of you. I love that you're carrying new life. That's my honorary niece or nephew in your belly, you know. When your kiddo moves to the big-kid bed, graduates pre-school, scores that first soccer goal or earns that good grade, I want to celebrate with you. When you find out that your family is growing again, I want to share in your joy. When you find out it's a boy or it's a girl, I want to picture your future with you. I want to pray for you and your growing family. I know that raising the next generation is no cakewalk and I want to support you along the way.

Most of all, I just want to be included.

This friendship has always been the kind where we tell each other everything. Please, sister friend, I'm begging you, don't let that change just because our journeys are different. It's hard enough over here on the periphery without the sting of exclusion. You don't mean it that way. Your heart is too big for that. You're only trying to be sensitive to my situation. I love how much you care.

I don't write this letter to make you feel bad. I'd never want that! I write because I don't want you to worry that your good news causes me pain. Of course I'd love nothing more than to be in the same season you're in right now, but even though I'm not, I hope that you will still think to call or text when you have good news to share. After all, good news is good news and my struggles don't negate that. In fact, I could use some good news and fun conversation here lately.

Not to mention, I fully believe God is going to give me my breakthrough and my miracle baby, and girl, you had better believe I'm calling you when it happens! Someone's going to have to help me learn to change exploding diapers and cope with exhaustion. I hope that someone is you.

It's true that I can't promise I won't shed a tear when you share your news with me -- partly for my own empty arms and womb and partly because I'm so dang excited for you. My emotions about it all can be a little bit overwhelming at times (you already know that about me, though). But here's what I can promise: I will celebrate with you. I will pray for and with you. I will support you and be there to uplift you on the hard days. I will praise Jesus to the high heavens for the new life you've created. I'll thank Him for sparing you from this heartache. And I'll thank you (likely profusely) for braving the awkward and including me. It means more than you'll ever know.

So, how about we grab a cup of coffee or a pedicure sometime soon? I'll share the humorous details of ultrasound wands and hormone injections and you can tell me how many times your kiddo went on the big-kid potty this week. We'll probably throw in some reminiscing and laughter about those special stories I mentioned above -- the ones we both promised to take to our graves. We'll hug it out. We might even cry. Who knows? But when it's all said and done, we'll leave uplifted, remembering how and why this sisterhood and friendship has stood the test of time. After all, we need each other.

I love you, sweet friend. And I'd be so lost without you.

"I thank my God every time I remember you." -Philippians 1:3


No more

It has often been said that comparison is the thief of joy.

Never is this more evident to me than at the gym. The gym can be a tough place to hang out because there are a lot of really fit, trim, buff people running around that place. There is always someone who can lift more, run faster, do more burpees, pedal longer, jump higher, lunge lower.

Can I get an "AMEN!" y'all?

One of the "gifts" from the mass quantities of hormone injections during fertility treatments is weight gain. Weight isn't something I needed more of, but I got it anyway. Had things worked out the way we had hoped, the weight gain and every other side effect would have been more than worth it to have our child in our arms. Since that's not how our story went, the thicker thighs, extra belly jelly and tighter clothes have been tough to accept. They've been an unflattering reminder of grief. Insult to injury.

I can't tell you how many times I've walked into the gym, seen the people I see every day, looked at their progress and felt so much shame for being the one who has gone backwards.

Rather than being thankful to my body for standing in the aftermath, I've felt ashamed of it. I've let comparison steal my joy.

No more.

My value and my worth are not how many donkey kicks and tuck jumps I can knock out in a minute or how much my mid-section jiggles while doing those things. God gave me this body and it is strong. It has been abused by procedures, medications, needles and trauma and, by His grace, it is still pedaling, lifting, running, squatting and jumping. Starting now, the comparisons stop and giving thanks begins.

Will you join me in that?

When the guy who parks next to you gets a new Porsche, will you be thankful for and content with your GMC?

When your neighbor lives in a giant house, will you be thankful for and content with your three-bedroom ranch?

When that parent in your kids' playgroup seems to have it all together while you're barely clinging to sanity, will you choose to see that you're a great parent?

When your college classmate gets your dream job, will you choose to give thanks for the phenomenal job you have?

When anyone anywhere has something you want (material or otherwise), will you choose to remember and give thanks for the gift of Jesus Christ and that all who believe in him are saved by grace (see John 3:16)?

"But godliness with contentment is a great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these." -1 Timothy 6:6-8

I pray that together we can learn to stop feeling shame for what others have that we don't. I pray that together we can find joy in all circumstances. I pray that together we can see our worth.

I pray that together we will realize that each and every one of us has been uniquely and beautifully created by our Father God in Heaven who doesn't make mistakes.

"For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well." -Psalms 139:13-14

Before the sun sets on this day, will you join me in saying, "No more?" Can we decide right now to stop living our lives under the weight of comparison? There is so much joy to be found in breaking free.

Choosing Hope in the Heartache

It happened on a Wednesday night in May. Our women's ministry team was helping out with a dinner for our church's single moms ministry. The May dinner was a special one because it was a chance to celebrate these deserving moms for Mother's Day.

One of the moms (who I hadn't met before) was leaving at the same time I was, so I made sure to tell her I hoped she would have a happy Mother's Day.

Her very kind and cheerful response: "Happy Mother's Day to you too!"

I eeked out a smile as I ran out the door, swallowing the lump in my throat and thinking to myself, "My baby is in Heaven."

And then I cried the entire 25-minute drive home. And then I cried telling my husband the story. And then I kept crying while I prepped my stuff for work for the next day. And then I cried some more while reading a chapter of the book "I'll Hold You in Heaven." And I didn't stop crying until I fell asleep.

I guess Mother's Day is going to be rough.

But this is the part of the story where I have a choice to make. I can choose to wallow in self pity (not the same as grieving, to be sure), or I can choose hope. I can choose gratitude. I can choose to celebrate all of the ways that God has been good and faithful to me through all of the mothers in my life. At present, I have my own amazing momma, my wonderful mother-in-law, two phenomenal grandmothers and an incredible great-grandma. They are more than deserving of celebration.

The same choice is true in any tough season. There are always reasons to give thanks.

My husband spent Friday night in the ER with chest pains.
It was pleurisy and not a heart attack.
Thanks be to God.

Mother's Day is hard for us mommas of babies gone too soon.
As believers, we'll hold them in Heaven.
Thanks be to God.

My arms are empty and my heart grieves.
Friends and family are covering me in grace, love and prayer.
Thanks be to God.

Seasons of waiting are hard.
Friendships bloom through mutual understanding.
Thanks be to God.

And the best of all: 
We were once drowning in sin.
Jesus came and washed us white.

"But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin."
1 John 1:7 (NIV)
Thanks be to God.

It is okay to grieve. It's okay to cry. It's okay to be sad. It's okay to not understand why.

In our seasons of waiting and sadness and unknowns, may we believe that God is good and may we choose to give thanks that we don't mourn without hope. May we praise Him in the storm, even when when our emotions don't feel like it, because even when we don't understand, He is worthy.

"Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him."
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (NIV)

This Mother's Day, may us grieving mommas and mommas in waiting choose thankfulness for the mothers in our lives and hope for our own futures in Christ.

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."
Hebrews 6:19a (NIV)