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Have Needles, Will Travel (2)

We're going to the beach! Bright and early tomorrow morning, we head to Oak Island, NC. Once again, I'm travelling with Lupron and needles, only this time we're driving rather than flying which means I won't find myself underwhelmed by the response of airport security to my bag of pointy, stabby things. It did just occur to me tonight that I don't have a sharps container, which will probably be necessary since we're sharing a house with family including young nephews. Hopefully I can pick one up at a friendly pharmacy in North Carolina. Sharps container or not, I'm looking forward to a week of relaxing by the ocean - and reading some of your recommended books!


Excerpt of Encouragement

Back when we found out that our first attempt at IVF did not result in pregnancy, that our two embryos did not implant, we received many sympathetic calls and e-mails. One e-mail was one of the most encouraging notes I have ever received, and I wanted to share some excerpts of it here. Annika wrote of what she thought God would say to me if he were giving a Hebrews 11 type of testimony:

By faith Andrea believed in my goodness when time and again she felt all-consuming disappointment and sadness. By faith she remained focused on me, looking to the power of the cross rather than allowing herself to be surrounded and captivated by her grief, her anger, her perplextion, her jealousy, her self-pity. By faith she trusted me to carry these things, when she could have tried to carry them by herself and turned her back on me. By faith Andrea fought to hear my voice when the world said, "There must be something wrong with you. You must not be spiritual enough. You must not pray ferverently enough. The Lord must be trying to teach you something, or else you would be pregnant by now." She fought to hear my voice among the clatter, to remember my goodness to her in the sacrifice of my Son, to remember my love for her, to allow me to comfort her and soothe her, to fill her void. By faith Andrea did not waver in her belief in my ability to bring forth life, but rather trusted in my timing and my purposes, even when it seemed unfair and pointless. By faith she pressed on, rathen than sit down stubbornly and refuse to continue until she got what she wanted. By faith she matured and grew in her understanding of my sovereignty and love for her. Her faithfulness has brought me much delight; if only she knew what I good and wonderful things I have in store for her...

I believe He is boasting about You to those around Him, perhaps even to the little lives that are now with Him, saying, "Do you see her? That is your mommy! Isn't she so
amazing? Would that more of my children have her strength and perseverance! I love her so very much!"

Thanks, Annika, for such encouraging words and faithful friendship! It helps to have such a specific picture of how God is receiving glory from this trial of infertility.


Beach Read Recommendations?

Oh, Internet, I need your help! We leave for a beach vacation on Friday, and I don't know what books to bring along. Sad days indeed when a literature major doesn't know what to read. Can anyone recommend some good beach reads? I'm mostly looking for fiction, but non-fiction would work, too.

Here are some of my favorite novelists, to get the ball rolling: Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, P.G. Wodehouse, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Dorothy Sayers, P.D. James, Elizabeth George, Madeleine L'Engle...



To Aaron.

My best beloved, these past weeks with you have been so sweet. You are my laughter in a time of sorrow. Our marriage grows more roots and branches, even as our dreams for a family seem to splinter. So many people have said, "Just enjoy the time you have together!" So much easier said than done. So easy to long for children and think that this unity, this one-ness we have is not enough. But we have had four years and counting of enjoying each other, growing in friendship and intimacy and fellowship. And I would not trade you, my husband, for all the children in the world. What a treasure to sleep in together on a Saturday morning, to savor a pot of tea in our pajamas, to take off on a whimsical bike ride, to look at each other and say, "We would gladly trade this freedom for a baby, but let's make this most of this; let's ride and smile together!" What a daily delight to sit down over dinner together, to share our days, what we have learned from God's word, where we have struggled, where we have found grace. What a haven to lay with your arm under my pillow and your knees pressed behind mine, as we close our eyes and I chatter to you of all the little things that I was too distracted to think to tell you until the darkness of bedtime. What a grace that right now - these weeks, these moments - the balm of your love soothes my heart. I am sick of deferred hope, but I am so content with you.

"What I'm trying to say in some clumsy way
is that it's you and only you -
not just for now, not just today -
but it's you and only you for always."
Nichole Nordeman, We Build


The Next Big Summer Blockbuster. Really.

Clark Kent takes off his glasses; voila - Superman! Peter Parker takes off his glasses - Spiderman! Me, well, I don't wear glasses. But like many meek men and women before me, I have discovered a hidden superpower. Behold, Spotwoman! She can spot a mere eight to ten days into her luteal phase! She can spot well before any scheduled pregnancy test for a medicated cycle! She can spot while injecting heavy-duty progesterone-in-oil shots after IVF! And now, she can spot with alacrity during her second week of pre-IVF birth control pills! (Nurse Answers says it's nothing to be concerned about, unless my bloodwork in early July shows elevated estrogen levels...) Spotwoman, an infertility superhero. Anybody else think they have a secret (infertility or otherwise) superhero identity?


Na Messages - Infertility Style (Part 2)

(Last New Attitude post, I promise! Continuing with a recap of sermon notes and thoughts on application...)

Discerning Grey Matters - Eric Simmons (Mon. a.m.)
Col. 1:9-14
- grey matters are not areas where we do whatever we want, but areas where we seek harder to understand God's will
- 3 parts of discerning grey matters: (1) think biblically; (2) distrust your heart/motives; (3) imitate your Father
Infertility can be full of grey matters. I want to exercise discernment through ongoing evaluation of each step and each action undertaken in our quest to conceive. I don't want to make any assumptions (i.e. we did IVF in an ethical way before, so it's okay to keep attempting IVF as many times as it takes) without thinking biblically and examining my motives with grace-filled suspicion. As I write about infertility on this blog, I want to seek to imitate my heavenly Father rather than patterning myself after the subculture of the infertile. While I thank God for my companions in this struggle, I want to be identified more as a child of God than an infertility blogger.

Discerning What Pleases God: Himself - John Piper (Mon. p.m.)
- Who is the most God-centered person in the universe? God himself
- Who is uppermost in God's affection? God himself
- Is God an idolater? No
- What is God's chief jealousy? To be known and glorified and obeyed
- What is the chief end of God? To glorify and enjoy himself forever
- Do you feel most loved by God because he makes much of you or because he frees you to make much of him?
- Are you God-centered because he is supremely valuable to you or because you believe you are supremely valuable to him?
As I think about the trial of infertility, what confidence those questions bring, especially the last two! If God proved his love for me by making much of me, then hard, heart-breaking times like these would disprove his love. If God's primary purpose and best action were to value me and uplift me, this thwarting of my desires and yearnings would show that God was not very good at being God. But if God's demonstrates love by increasing my awe of him, if his goal is to make himself most valuable to me, then infertility is a mighty tool to accomplish his loving purposes. Infertility teaches me that life is not all about what I want, that I am utterly dependent on my Creator and Redeemer. I want my experience of infertility to act like a telescope, magnifying God by bringing his greatness into a close-up view.

Discerning What Pleases God: Personal Obedience - John Piper (Mon. p.m.)
- obedience that God abominates: (1) obedience offered as the ground of justification before God; (2) obedience offered as payback for God's grace
- obedience that pleases God: (1) faith in the gospel, by which we receive Christ's obedience; (2) obedience that magnifies our debt to fresh springs of future grace
As I seek to walk through this trial in obedience, I want to do so as a debtor to grace. Obedience is not a bargaining chip to get the children I want. All I can do is boast in Christ's mercy and benefits. He has already purchased all of the grace that I will ever need; I just keep asking for more of that grace to be applied like a balm to my sore and sinful heart. His grace will abound to me with perfect sufficiency for the good works of waiting patiently, of loving pregnant friends and young moms, of counting suffering as joy.

Discern How to Apply - C.J. Mahaney (Tues. a.m.)
James 1:22-23
- the priority of application: "knowledge is the prelude to action"
- the practice of application: effective application is (1) specific, (2) patient, (3) undertaken in the shadow of the cross
I want to be both optimistic and realistic about my spiritual growth. God is at work in my heart through this trial, and he will complete the good work he has begun. But change is not a one-time event; it is a painstakingly slow, ongoing process. As I persevere, I don't want to ever lose sight of Calvary.


Na Messages - Infertility Style (Part 1)

I've spent some time each morning (almost!) for the past week and a half reviewing my notes from the New Attitude messages, re-reading the scriptures that were central to each sermon, and jotting down some thoughts about how to apply. Here's a recap:

Discernment - Josh Harris (Sat. p.m.)
Romans 12:1-2
- discernment requires resistance
- discernment requires renewal
- discernment requires action
- discernment requires the gospel
I want to exercise discernment in the realm of infertility. As my circumstances seem to belie God's promises, I want to reclaim truth from the Word daily. I want to practice God's will - to get busy doing what I know he wants me to do - until his will becomes to me good, acceptable, and perfect. I want to blog about infertility by speaking truth, dying to the desire to appear sophisticated. I want to humbly remember that any insight I have into dealing with this trial is only because the Spirit has opened my eyes to the gospel.

Discern Your Doctrine - Mark Dever (Sun. a.m.)
- learn what doctrine we must agree upon through the Bible, your church, & your conscience
- fourfold test for doctrinal importance: (1) how clear is it in Scripture? (2) how clear do others think it is? (3) how near is it to the gospel? (4) what would be the effects of allowing disagreement?

Discern Your Culture - Al Mohler (Sun. p.m.)
- 5 wrong ways of understanding culture (using the metaphor of water): (1) "let's get completely wet" - letting culture define reality; (2) "let's stay completely dry" - impossible, because we cannot talk, eat, etc. without participating in culture in some way; (3) "let's take a dip" - we can't carelessly drop into culture and emerge safe; (4) "let's take a sip" - we cannot understand culture without serious study; (5) "let's look at the aquarium" - we can't engage culture from a distance
- culture is a sea that we swim in; it can be poisonous, but we cannot jump out; we need a systematic theology to understand and relate to culture

Discern Your Heart - C.J. Mahaney (Sun. p.m.)
Ex. 20:2; Rom. 1:25; 1 Thes. 1:9; 1 Cor. 10:4; Col. 3:5; 1 John 5:21
- defining idolatry - a false, functional God
- discerning idolatry - through Scripture, by the Spirit, in the church, in circumstances
- the fruit of identifying idolatry - growth in godliness; growth in gratefulness to God
Idolatry is my chief temptation, whether I recognize it or not. I need new eyes to see the sacrifice Christ made to win me to worship and serve the true God. As I pursue hard after pregnancy and children, I need to be aware when those become ruling desires. When I am prone to envy friends who are pregnant or have children, I need to ask whether that is idolatrous covetousness. I want this test of adversity to wean me from idolatry. I need God's grace so that he - my professed God - truly becomes my functional god - the One who drives every desire that I have.

Na Worship - Infertility Style

My memory of the New Attitude worship times is fading fast when it comes to specifics. Generally, I remember the main theme echoing in my heart - as I filled with near-certainty that our first IVF was failing fast - was that if even the rocks and trees cry out to give God glory, then my tiny embryos too sang a song of praise to their Maker. Even as I grew more and more sure that those two sparks of life had slipped away, my cry was that they would bring God glory. If they bring God the most glory by failing to implant in my womb, then so be it. And that is, indeed, what happened.

For a full list of the songs we sang at each session, look here.


New Attitude - Infertility Style

We've now been back from the New Attitude conference for just over a week, and I'm still marshaling my thoughts and figuring out how to apply all I learned. The conference - primarily aimed at singles but open to young married couples - had a unique flavor for me as I spent most of the weekend with dawning realization that our first IVF had failed. I started spotting on our drive down to Louisville, and it continued for most of the weekend. As I struggled with the impending sorrow, I wondered why God wanted me at the conference at that particular time. The first few messages were all excellent, but they seemed to have no application whatsoever to my circumstances full of infertility and grief. But, even as I grumbled in my heart, the Lord met me in a very personal way. On Sunday evening - the halfway point of the conference - the worship time began with a few people sharing brief testimonies about how God has helped them in trials. Even then, my first reaction was to complain that I did not yet have a similar story about what God has done for me. Still, Aaron and I had a bittersweet time weeping before the Lord together. Then, Bob Kauflin sang a prophetic song for those experiencing a loss of some kind. The words he sang ministered balm to my soul and washed over me with awareness that my heavenly Father sees me, cares for me, and wants to speak to me. I knew in that moment that I was not just adrift at the conference but that the Savior had specific purposes for me there. The evening continued with a message on idolatry by C.J. Mahaney. (By the way, you can download all eight Na messages for FREE! from the Sovereign Grace Ministries website - link in sidebar.) Idolatry is a topic I have considered before, and one that is always helpful to hear again. C.J. spent quite a bit of time speaking about idolatry and tests of adversity, which definitely applied to me! One of the things he said that resonated most immediately was that tests of adversity are heightened when we encounter others who are undergoing tests of prosperity in the very same area. How true to my experience of infertility! Yet, what new eyes it brings to my situation to recognize that those friends who are blessed with children are facing tests, too - to be grateful and uncomplaining when nights with crying infants seem long, to keep the Lord as first priority rather than allowing children to be the little rulers of their lives, etc. As C.J. pointed out, biblical examples show that people tend to fail tests of prosperity more often than tests of adversity. So as God gives me grace in my affliction, I want to seek to help those friends who have had blessing poured out into their lives. I'm looking for scripture to renew my mind in that area and considering practical ways that I can put idolatry to death by serving others. We were encouraged at the conference to have one main application point, and that is mine - to be a blessing to those who are prospering with children and pregnancies even as I wade through adversity in that realm.

A few more general Na thoughts to come...


Here We Go Again - IVF #2

Just a quick update to say that we are beginning the process for IVF #2. My baseline ultrasound and bloodwork yesterday showed all reproductive organs and hormones back to normal, and Nurse Answers confirmed that our vacation at the end of June should not interfere with any appointments, so we have the all clear to start the suppression protocol. Since the first month of the process is so low-key - just BCP for three weeks, and then Lupron shots for ten days, but no daily appointments or major procedures - Aaron and I feel good about starting right up again. Supression is sort of a built-in lull in the intense storm of IVF.

Also, I will have a consult with Dr. Peppy on July 2 to discuss our first IVF and if we will make any changes to the protocol for this round. I'm compiling a list of questions to ask then - What exactly was our embryo quality? Was there anything obvious that caused the IVF to fail, or is it just a mystery why the embryos did not implant? Why is it taking such extremes of treatment to correct what seems like a relatively minor problem of low progesterone? Is there some part of the problem that we're missing, that we haven't tested for yet? Let me know if you have any suggestions for other questions to ask at a post-IVF consult.