Monday, April 29, 2013

The Other Side

I'm a little late to the scene for Infertility Awareness Week.

More info:

Sorry about that. Actually, I'm not sorry...mainly because it is something I am always aware of. I don't feel the need to give this issue a week of its' own. Having been through it myself, I want to bring this topic to light in a different way, mainly because it has taught me so much about myself and my world. While I love the idea that there is a whole campaign out there to bring infertility to the forefront of people's minds for a bit, I also feel like this type of thing can be a turn-off to actual hands-on ministry. We should always be finding ways to meet needs and mend hurts no matter the issue.

What would matter more to you if you were dealing with infertility?
a. A few friends linking webpages and blogs on facebook to show they care.
b. A woman who has been there, done that sitting with you, listening, praying, drinking tea and sharing in your pain.

If you think about it, we are called to minister with our lives, our relationships. We are supposed to use our past hurts to help the new ones entering into a hard season. This might look different for each person, and everyone has a different personality. But I know that my most beautiful moments in the midst of my pain involved a face-to-face conversation with someone who I knew loved me for me. Someone who didn't hide their emotions or news from me. Someone who gave me tough love when necessary. If you have been through infertility in any way, shape or form...think about how your life can be a ministry to others.

I want to talk to you today mainly about what it is like to be on the other side of infertility.

Over the last few months, I have thought to myself a few times that it sure felt good to not have to worry about my cycle or what day of the month it is. It's really nice to not be pursuing something so whole-heartedly for a change. And then I catch myself, and wonder, "Am I really on the other side? After so many years of this, how will I know I am really, truly, on the other side?" My body has never carried a pregnancy past 7 weeks. I have never given birth. Yet I feel such great healing has taken place within me. Am I the old Kara again? Well, I don't think so. Nor will I ever be the same old Kara. I wasn't meant to be. I have taken this pain and allowed it to teach me things. Did I handle every single situation over those eight years perfectly? Ahem....nope. But I recently started making a list of ways you will know you are reaching the farther side of the bridge. The other side of your grief.

1. Reconciliation.

Infertility has a way of turning the most sane, normal woman into a crazy person. Trust me. And it was in those moments of short-term craziness that I acted how I wouldn't normally have acted. Which, inevitably, either burned bridges or scattered eggshells on the ground between certain people and myself relationally. I hate that. I regret it deeply. But, I am grateful for God who is full of grace. Nobody was out to get me, as much as I believed they were. Nobody was "racing against me" in the pursuit of a baby like I had imagined. Many hours of prayer over this have taught me that even though I handled things poorly at times, God has covered it with his grace. I have given forgiveness to those who hurt me, even if they didn't mean to. I have sought forgiveness as well. And you know you are on the other side when you find reconciliation with those who hurt you, as well as those whom you hurt. When you stand across the bridge and see "water under it" in the place of hurt feelings. I love those deeply who have loved me through my ugliness.

2. Joy
Looking back at those years of infertility, I remember vividly the void it left in my soul. I can remember screaming matches with God in closets. I remember the numbness. I remember fake happiness when I just couldn't muster the real thing. I remember the roller coaster of emotions, and wondering, "Will I ever be happy again?" I even remember reading scriptures that spoke of God turning our sorrow into joy and thinking to myself..."HOW?" But what I want to emphasize with you is not the fact that I ever doubted the Word of God's truth in my life, but more that it IS true. While I will never be the same me I used to be, I wake up each day grateful for my life EXACTLY how it turned out. God really did know best all along. There is not a single thing I would change about our story. I have so much joy most days that I catch myself crying over how happy and joyful I am. So take THAT, infertility. I choose joy. God really has turned my mourning into dancing, and given beauty for ashes.

3. Full Life

When you actually stop and look at all you have in life, things look pretty good. My heart is so full because God has blessed me with parents that still love each other and would do anything for us, siblings on BOTH sides of the family whom we adore and really love spending time with, a beautiful home with plenty of space to spread out, plenty of delicious, healthy food, physical health and relationships with so many good friends. We are so blessed that it is literally a list a mile long of all we have. One of my husband's infamous quotes to me when I would be in the middle of an infertility pity party was, "Kara. You know I love you no matter what. You have got to stop looking at the one thing you don't have, and look at all the things you DO have." No truer words were spoken. And you know what?? I have a baby. Tears well up as I type that sentence. I have a baby. A perfect, beautiful, smart baby boy who God chose to be our son. Adoption may not be right  for everyone, but it sure was right for us. Adoption has made our lives fuller than you can imagine. Is our family complete? I don't know, and can't answer that. If God chooses to open my womb someday then all glory to him. If he asks us to step into yet another place that stretches us even more, then Yes Lord. But nothing can beat the way it feels to have the full home and full life we do have this very moment.

4. Peace
The other side of infertility feels very peaceful. I find myself giddy with excitement at news that, in the past, would have sent me into a downward spiral. I love serving new mommies, pregnant women and ministering to those that are now wearing the beat-up, worn-down shoes I used to wear called infertility. It is very calming and relaxing to not have to constantly think about what day it is in my cycle, did I take my medication, go to yet another zillionth doctor appointment, cry when yet another negative shows. There is a certain peace from looking into my husband's and both of my sons' eyes and knowing that I have all I need.

All this to say, don't give up on yourself, and don't give up on God's plan for your life. Hebrews 12:1 says:
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."


Monday, April 8, 2013

Book Review and More Surrounding Yom HaShoah

Today is Yom HaShoah, which is the day we remember the victims and heroes of the Holocaust. It only seems fitting that I pay tribute to this day in some small way, even if it means something only to my heart.

A few years ago, my husband and I had the privilege of taking our oldest son on a vacation to Washington D.C. One of the most important stops on this trip was to the Holocaust Museum.

I have no other photographs from this tour, as no cameras were allowed inside. But I will say that nothing about this trip stands out to me as much as this particular moment, where the body of truth was cut open and laid out before my very eyes. While I can honestly say that I don't feel that I was shielded from this truth as I got older, it just wasn't something that my "world" discussed or educated about. Of course I knew it had happened, and had read the Diary of Anne Frank a jillion times.....but this was a defining moment for me. The tour had an actual virtual progression of time in Nazi Germany, a very realistic mosaic of how life became very bad rather quickly not only for the people of Europe, but more specifically for the Jews.
This link. tells more about the day of remembrance.
This link. tells more about the online exhibits at the US Holocaust Museum in DC.

I am by NO means an expert on the topic, but I will say that in the last few months my interest in the subject of Nazi Germany and WWII has really surfaced. It is a topic that I almost cannot get enough of, even if only to be more educated about the topics, as well as more outspoken about the horror and atrocities of that time period. It all began first, with the museum. Secondly, with THIS book.

My book club chose this as our book of the month about 3 months ago, and ever since then I have been starving for more information on the topic. This is required young adult fiction reading set in Nazi Germany. It is an historical fiction piece that very accurately tells of the ways of life in that setting. The oddest part for me was adjusting to the narrator of the story being death, personified. I HIGHLY recommend this book to ANYONE. Five stars and an A+++++++ from me, as well as from my book club.

No thanks to the previously mentioned book, I have read no less than 6 books since. And all have been about WWII, whether the Pacific front, or the European. Book reviews and info commence!

Because I was so confounded that anyone could be so evil, so "messed up".....I knew I HAD to read a biography of Adolf Hitler.
I am nowhere near finished with this book. But I have read the first portion that tells of Hitler's genealogy (very interesting), as well as his upbringing and earlier years. Here is what I can say I have learned: He had a blended family growing up, but relatively normal family life. He was a terrible student. He lost a brother when he was 9 and never fully recovered emotionally. He was overly attached to his mother, even to the point of borderline hate for his father. He preferred to live alone, and so reclusive as to be evasive as a young man. He was a lover of the opera, as well as a mediocre artist. He dodged the draft for years, which the irony is not lost on me. He was homeless for a couple of years, living on the streets, and lived in men's shelters for years on end. He would often get into rages and fits over "nothing" in particular. Today, I am SURE, he would have been diagnosed psychotic or schizophrenic, neither of which I know enough about to really say. And that is where I am in the book, with over 500 pages left to go.

I am in the middle of reading The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom.
This book tells the non-fiction, actual real story of a Christian family in Holland who had a huge hand in the Underground, which protected the Jews. Corrie has an amazing way of telling how she see's God's hand in their operation and life, and how to place your trust in Him even when there is evil all around. I cannot stop reading this book. It is truly fascinating, and sharing a faith with Corrie, helps me see that God's hand truly is in it all.

This next book, I read a few years ago, was NOT a good one for me.

As this is mostly a novel about a Russian Jewish family's immigration to New York City, the narration and profanity were not something I enjoyed. It was a celebrity favorite in a magazine I read, so I thought I would read it. I guess I need to keep in mind celebrities do NOT know best when it comes to books. (ahem....Oprah too.)

This will be my next book, and despite that Oprah does recommend this book, I have heard that several of my friends also recommend it. So when I put down The Hiding Place, I will pick up:

This next book is not set in Germany or Holland, but is from the same time period in France.

This is also a movie from 2010, which I really would love to rent and watch. The book was really good, even though so heart-wrenching. It is a fiction book set in Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel' d'Hiv' roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours. Filled with tragedy surrounding this key event, the beauty of the story comes at the end with the power of reconciliation and forgiveness, as well as embracing the past with unity. A+++

The last two books I will rate were non-fiction pieces in regards to the Pacific WWII front. I highly recommend this book. The man whose story unfolds on these pages is truly an inspiration to me.
If you prefer non-fiction, make this your next read. It is amazing to me that any human can survive such cruelties and events and live to not only tell about them, but show the power of God's grace and healing.

This last book is more of a play-by-play from different American special forces men, who tell the stories of their experiences as either POW, or what specific battles were like. It is not elaborate, and doesn't whet my appetite for more like the other books did. But it is good for learning.

I am not eloquent with my thoughts or words, but my heart is in the right place. I hope that by sharing the truth about this time period with others and the future generations we can show love to all people, and learn to never stand in silence when evil and cruelty are present. May we all remember, today and always, the victims, survivors and heroes of the Holocaust.