Voice of Truth

The song titled, The Voice of Truth, by Christian band Casting Crowns is one of my favorites.  I love this song.  Each time it comes on the radio, I crank it up.  The words of the chorus are quite simple:

But the voice of truth tells me a different story.  The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid.”  And the voice of truth says, “This is for my glory.” Out of all the voices calling out to me.  I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.

-Casting Crowns

There was a time in my life when I did not know what truth was.  I heard many “voices” but none of them were comforting.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that there were moments in my growing years that whispers of darkness, cruel thoughts, and hurtful words were a part of my psyche.

I remember wondering after my hysterectomy if I had done something awful to cause it to happen.  I thought that perhaps I should have been born a boy…yes…being a boy would have been much better than a girl who could not have babies.  I also thought God surely knew I would make a terrible mother.  He must have wanted to spare a child my mothering.  Or, perhaps I was a child killer in a past life…even though I did not think past lives even existed.

As an adult, I wish I could say that these notions faded, but they did not.  I found myself thinking that God did not want me to be a parent.  If He wanted it, then it would have happened miraculously, quickly, and without any additional strife.  I do not know if anyone who reads this believes in spiritual warfare, but I do.  The fact that these horrific, cruel, depraved thoughts lingered in my mind as a child and an adult prove to me that spiritual warfare does exist.  Not one adult ever said these things to me.  Not one child, no one.  Yet, I “heard” them.

Back in 2000, I started going to church again.  As I began to do so, those hurtful words and  notions took a backseat to the Truth that is found in the voice of God.  The written Word became magnified.  In Him, I began to hear “You are beautiful”, “You have purpose”, “Your life was worth saving”.  Even more awesome though was the clarity I received from worship and reading the Word.  I was able to recognize that the voices bringing me down were not of Him. They were flaming arrows of the enemy and I was the target.

His Word and the hope I found in Christ became my shield.  The following verses spoke to me in ways that drowned out the cursed thoughts I once carried:

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Psalms 139:16 “Your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.”

Psalm 139:14 “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Romans 5:2-5 “Through him we have also obtained  access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the  glory of God.  More than that, we rejoice in hope of the  glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that  suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character  produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been  poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to  us.

Silence and suffering comes along with infertility.  It can dishearten the strongest of believers.  It can eat at the core of one’s relationship with the Lord.  The enemy whispers “you don’t deserve to be a parent”, “you must have done something wrong”, “it must not be God’s will for you”….and many more things.

I can tell you that when in the pit of despair over barrenness, it is hard sometimes to hear anything but the words of the enemy.  It is hard to see outside of the strife and beyond the pain.  It is hard to hear the voice of Truth calling out.  IT. IS. HARD.  

However, as the song says, THE VOICE OF TRUTH TELLS ME A DIFFERENT STORY.     

The stories of those of us who have struggled or are currently being challenged with the spiritual confusion of infertility are not written by the enemy or anyone else for that matter.  Our stories have been written by the One whose voice is true; the One whose love is everlasting; the One whose shield is strong; the One who breathes life into the most destitute of situations; the One whose grace saves; the One who created us; the One who set our limits; and the One who has declared our future.

What’s the voice of truth telling you?  

For those of you who are battling your way to parenthood, stay strong in your faith.  Know that you are loved by a God who is bigger than your doubts.  Know that He is not done with you yet.  Know that your story is just unfolding.   Take delight in the hope of His promises and the mystery of what He has in store. 

Listen to His Voice of Truth.  Be Blessed.

Samples for Jesus

the joy of my little boy
         www.sarahcarterphoto.com

A few Sundays ago, my almost six-year-old son asked me “Do you take samples for Jesus?”  I had no idea what he was talking about.  Samples for Jesus?  I asked him again what he said to make sure I did not misunderstand him.  “Do you take samples for Jesus?”  I finally told him that I had no idea what he was talking about.  In frustration, he said, “You know…those pieces that Mr. Richard passes out in that plate.”  Aha!  He was talking about communion!  After laughing for quite a bit at the joy of my little boy, I explained that, yes, mommy takes “samples” for Jesus.

As what seems to be commonplace lately in my life, the Lord used my son to deliver a message that provoked my thoughts about my life as a Christian.  Do I fully live out a life that is reflecting of Christ in me?  Or, am I just sampling the Christian life?  What can I do to show my children and others around me that my walk with Christ is more than showing up to church, saying Amen, and taking communion?

I want my children to see that being a believer requires full attention.  One cannot just pick and choose pieces of it as if sampling the foods at a local deli.  It is the choice between living as if this is the only destination or choosing to live with the full belief that there is life beyond this world.  It is the notion that everything and everyone matters to God.  It is the hope that only comes from salvation.  It is the faith of the glory of Jesus Christ.

Once again, I love that the Lord delivers quick, simplistic, and innocent messages through the words of my children.  I hope that their eyes and their hearts see their mommy as a faith-leaning, Christ-believing, and people-loving Christian.  I pray that my life reflects to them that their mommy is more than just a “sample-taster”.

Writing My Story

A few years ago I felt the urge to write.  It seemed as though the Lord was telling me to write my story down; although, I had no clue how to start the process.  The last writing class I took was in 1992 or so when I was in college.  My friend knew my desire, or perhaps the Lord’s calling on my heart, to start writing so she bought me some journals.  I carried them everywhere and would write down different thoughts or words that sparked my memories or pertained to my history.  I even used my iPhone to record thoughts that came to me when writing was not possible.  Gotta love technology!

I had no idea as to where this project was going or if there was really anything important to say.  The fact is that everyone has a story.  All of us have a uniquely designed existence that is of no greater matter or significance than the other.  We are all significant in the eyes of the Lord.  I personally feel that the most inspiring stories are those told from people who come from the most humble situations.

As I started writing, it felt as though my heart and my mind were pricked.  Suddenly, there was this release of all of the captive moments, long forgotten thoughts, and stifled persuasions that I had carried around for nearly my entire life; or at least, my life after age eleven.  Words were pouring out of me that brought me to tears.

Soon, I turned to my computer to start writing.  I craved it.  Early mornings and late evenings were often accompanied by the patter of my fingertips on the keyboard as I delved into my solitary world of infertility.  I had to reach out to others during this time for feedback, their memories of my story, and just plain old support.  However, for the most part, it was me, my computer, my memories, and the Lord’s prodding.

I finished the manuscript within a few months.  Once I started writing, I could not stop until I got it all out.  I grieved for the child I was who became so ill.  I fretted for the teenager who, despite seeming and acting like every other teen girl, held within her dark glimpses of despair.  I felt the anger of a young woman in her twenties who was torn between wondering if her future career would be her “baby” or if she was ever going to have a baby to call her own.  I celebrated the woman who ran to the Lord after years of ignoring Him.  Lastly, I shed tears of joy for the foster-mother whose life was impacted for the better by the humbling refinement that is foster care and adoption.

I still have the manuscript on my computer.  I do not know where it is going or what it is supposed to be.  That is okay though.  There is great cleansing in writing one’s life story even if no one reads it.  Writing my story down has brought about a desire to continue to bring to life the words my heart feels but often my lips cannot form.  Writing my story has also revealed the incredible essence of survival, faith, mercy, grace, and hope.

I would like to share an excerpt from it if you don’t mind.  I have already inserted a few lines  from the manuscript from time to time into previous blog posts.  Even though this is just a glimpse, I welcome any comments.  I may share more as I feel the need…

I do not remember much about the week I was in the hospital prior to the doctors discovering what was ravaging my body.  My memories are more like flashing images from a movie.  I do however remember waking up at one point with my dad and a doctor looking over me.  My dad simply and courageously stated “You can always make love, but you will never be able to have children.”  Or, did he say that?  I remember hearing it, but not sure if it was said to me or about me.  Nevertheless, in my hazy mind, I tried to comprehend what he was saying.  Make love?  What does that mean?  I had not even kissed a boy yet.  Have children? It really had not crossed my mind much.  But, I heard him loud and clear.  I knew something big had happened.  This event that occurred forever changed who I was and the path my life would take.  There was not a choice – it was either my life or my organs.  Oh, the agony my parents were feeling.  What irony really…the organs with which life begins had nearly destroyed mine.  I was eleven years old, I had never had a period, and now I was forever infertile.  I had just been thrust in to the world of infertility.  Trapped in a little girl’s body was a pre-menopausal woman.

Out of the Mouth of Babes

(photograph by Sarah Carter – http://www.sarahcarterphoto.com)

My daughter and I were setting up a room in a local church where I was scheduled to train foster parents on grief and loss.  The room is mostly used for youth so the decorations were different from the usual church auditorium.  Coming out of the stage and across the ceiling was a gigantic sculpted tree that was grey in color.  I could see where a child might find it a little frightening; although, I know that was not the intent of the designer.

My daughter said to me, “I’m scared. That tree is scary.”  I comforted her and told her that there was no need to be afraid as mommy was with her.  Again she said, “Mommy, that tree is scary.”  This time I told her that mommy and God were in the room with her so she did not need to be afraid.  When I told her that God was in the room she said, “No, He isn’t.”  I gently said, “Oh yes He is. God is with you wherever you go so there is no reason to be afraid.”

By now, I could tell she was quite agitated with me for saying that God was in the room. She put her hands out in an exaggerated manner and shook them while she said, “No He is not.”  I asked her “Where is God then?”  She looked up at me with her gorgeous blue eyes and sweet expression and said “God is in my heart.”

At that moment, the hustle and bustle of trying to get the room set up while tending to a clinging, somewhat argumentative 3 and 1/2-year-old melted away and I was reminded of how pure child-like faith is.

Do I walk around as if God lives in my heart?  Do I remember on a daily basis the implication of accepting Christ in my life?  Do I treat others in a way that truly reflects the love of Christ?  I love that God uses children to declare His truth and to gently humble us in ways that are so unexpected.

Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.  Psalm 8:2 (NIV) 

Strength Training

I love cycling!  I just started a few years ago and thoroughly enjoy it. I have been able to meet an eclectic group of fellow cyclists, make some new friends, see parts of my state I would otherwise over-look, and witness in small ways about my faith in Christ.  A lot of issues have been worked on and prayed for while out riding in the country.  I really enjoy riding in local charity events and end my “season” with completing a 150 mile ride to bring awareness and raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis.

There are numerous hills dispersed throughout my corner of the state in Missouri.  Oh, I love going down them, but climbing back up is a whole other issue.  Often, I just want to unclip my shoes, get off the bike, and walk up.  But, I don’t (okay…well maybe a few times).  Instead, I huff and puff my way up these “Ozarkian” hills.

The bike is not to blame.  It doesn’t change.  The suffering of the ride really has nothing to do with the bike, but instead, my lack of focus, determination, and training….oh yeah….and those darn hills.  I am now realizing that perhaps my cycling journeys represent my walk with Christ.

I’ve found that when being challenged by a major hill that feels more like a mountain, I’ve struggled with the instinct to just keep my focus on the Lord.  It can be hard to stay determined to make it up that mountain.  I have wanted to do it all on my own and not allow the Lord to help me up it.  Then there are those times when life is good and I’m just flying along.  I fail to notice or acknowledge sometimes the One who gives me those moments where I am carefree, content, and not having to work very hard.

Like cycling, I think that walking with the Lord takes practice.  Let me explain a little further. Before I fully committed myself to the Lord, I did not realize how important it was to stay active in faith.  I just assumed that I could be “immobile” and the Lord would take care of it all.  I did not pray that often, barely cracked open my bible, and never went to church.

Through the past 12 years since I have surrendered it all to Him, I have learned that being active in my faith requires daily “training”.  Prayer, acknowledging His good works in my day-to-day life, trusting Him daily, reading the Word, tithing, being active in church, serving others….the training regiment goes on and on.  I do not want to be a lukewarm, out-of-shape Christian.

When I am out on my bike and really feeling every muscle in my legs burn, I start to recite to myself “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).  

If I look up the road and see what seems like a monster of a hill coming, I recite “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).  

If nearing the end of a long ride and I am just worn out, I tell myself “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

Just like training rides build up my strength and endurance, my daily walk, or run for that matter, with the Lord builds up my strength to face the mountains in life.  Christ strengthens, Christ builds up, Christ refines, and Christ declares the victory.

Moments Like This

I watched my first baby walk through the doors of Kindergarten today.  His backpack was nearly as big as him and even though he has grown so much over the years, he still seems too small to release into the big, new world of the school system.  I have written before in my post Motherhood Dreams about certain things that I worried missing out on if I never became a mother.  Well, sending a child to Kindergarten is one of those things.  It is one of my so-called Bucket List Items that I can now check off as having completed.

As someone who is barren, I truly never thought this day would come.  Now, as my mind is racing with a hint of sadness, nervousness, excitement, pride, and appreciation, I cannot help but think about the first time I saw him.  As his (former) foster mother, I did not know for sure if I would even have him long enough to celebrate his first birthday so thinking about sending him off to his first day of Kindergarten was just a dream.  Today, this dream came true.

I know sending a child to Kindergarten is not exactly the kind of action-packed, adrenaline-laced bucket list item that most people aspire to do.  I get that.  I too have wishes of high-flying adventures tucked away that I would like to experience in my lifetime.  But, at the end of my life, I want to be able to look back at moments like this and remember them.  I want to hear them, smell them, and feel them.  I want them to be the moments that leave my heart happy and that remind of the gift of life.

His birth mother came to my mind a lot today as well.  Another moment in time of great relevance has passed her by.  I am so glad that I was the one to kiss him goodbye and take one last glance over my shoulder as I walked out the door of his classroom.  Yet, at the same time, my heart felt a twinge of sadness that she was not able to.  In my post, I thought of you today birth mother, I wrote down my feelings about her on the day he graduated from preschool.  Today was no different.  I suspect every milestone in his life and in mine will remind me of who she is, what she is missing, and the grace that has covered the both of us.

Today was more than just sending my first baby off to Kindergarten.  It is one day that I am so thankful to have to cherish.  I get another chance in a few years with my daughter, but for right now, I am going to soak up this moment as much as I can.

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

Second Chance

Have you ever wished for a second chance at something?  I am sure that I have wanted chances at many things throughout life, but I trust that the Lord granted me the chances (and second ones) that were best for me and that provided the opportunity to do what He desired for me to do.

Last year, I got my second chance at thanking my former pediatrician for the care he gave me.  Dr. Hamburg had been my pediatrician ever since I was a little girl.  He happened to be gone on vacation the week that I became incredibly ill.  I lay in the hospital slowly dying while various doctors tried to figure out what was going on with me.  My mom told me that as soon as Dr. Hamburg arrived back in town, he immediately came up to the hospital, read my chart, took one look at me, and then panicked.  He quickly ordered a CT scan which revealed a mass in my abdomen.  This in turn led to exploratory surgery to find what was believed to be a mass.  The mass was actually my uterus which was extremely swollen and filled with massive infection.  Dr. Hamburg also called in a new ob/gyn surgeon with wonderful credentials to perform the life-saving surgery.

I know, or at least, firmly believe that if he would have waited just a few days to return to the “office” after his vacation, I would have never made it.  There were many hands that touched me during that time and all of them played a part in saving my life.  However, I know Dr. Hamburg did not accept not knowing what was wrong.  He hastily came to the hospital and did not stop until he found the reason why his otherwise very healthy patient lay withering away.

That is the back story of Dr. Hamburg.  I also want to share what I believe is the Lord’s gifting of a second chance for me.  Here it is….

My first chance at something I had wanted to do happened at a local grocery story about a year and a half ago.  I looked up while pushing my cart around and saw my former pediatrician, Dr. Hamburg, shopping.  I studied him closely.  He is probably close to 80-years-old now and even though I knew it was him, I just wanted to be sure.  While I was trying to get the nerve up to go talk to him, I lost sight and, like that, he was nowhere to be found.  I hastily walked from aisle to aisle looking for him but could not find him.  My chance at telling this doctor who had a huge part in saving my life was gone.

As I walked out of the store, I felt the Lord saying to me “Caroline!  I gave you the perfect opportunity and you blew it!”  Oh my…I am sure our Heavenly Father just wants to throw His hands up sometimes with frustration!  I know this is something that He wanted me to do.  I have felt so led in the past few years to reconnect with pivotal people in my life who were in the trenches with me and my family during and after my hysterectomy.

The rest of the night and several days…okay months…passed and I could not get Dr. Hamburg out of my mind.  Last summer while heading into a store I looked up and there he was carrying a bag of groceries to his car.  I walked past with my sunglasses on so that I could give him one last look just to make sure.  As I was getting closer to the door of the grocery store, I realized this was the second chance I had been hoping for.

I immediately turned around and scurried as fast as I could to his car.  Nervously, I walked up and said “Excuse me, are you Dr. Hamburg?”  He said “yes”.  I then said “I don’t know if you remember me but I’m Caroline and I was one of your patients.”  He studied my face closely, but did not seem to be quite sure of whom I was.  He then said “How are you?” I said “I’m doing really well.”  He said “You have a sister right? How is she?”  I said “Yes I do. She’s doing well.”  He then introduced me to his granddaughter.  Now at this point, I could tell it was about to get awkward as he just kept searching my face trying to recall who I was.

I took a deep breath and said to him “I don’t know if you remember this but I am the girl who had the hysterectomy when I was eleven.”  In a split second, he turned and looked at his granddaughter and then looked back at me with an expression of “aha” mixed with excitement and concern at the same time.  I said “Dr. Hamburg, I am so glad I ran into you because I want to thank you.  I know that you played a very big part in saving my life.  And, I just want to let you know how grateful I am for this.  You saved my life.”

Of course, by this time, tears were streaming down my face.  I looked at him and his eyes that were filled with wisdom from the years began to well up with tears that eventually made their way to his cheeks.  He leaned forward and hugged me saying “thank you”. As I told him about being the mother of two wonderful children adopted out of foster care, he just stood there, staring, with tears rolling down.  His granddaughter was smiling from ear to ear.  We said our goodbyes and I turned around to enter the store.  I felt like I was flying.  My heart and mind were so excited, thankful, emotional, and in awe of what just occurred.  

I am so incredibly thankful for the second chance God gave me to run into Dr. Hamburg again.  I don’t even know if chance is the right word though.  I have learned through the years that nothing really happens by chance after all.  I believe that  our Heavenly Father is and always will be the creator of opportunities, and the writer of those golden moments where we can shine for Him, show love, and express thankfulness for the works He set His children to do on this Earth.

PSALM 107:1

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.