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Sunday, February 7, 2021

Applying Pressure

In April of this year, Mark and I will celebrate our 11th Wedding Anniversary. It will also mark approximately 8 years and six months of trying for, hoping for, praying for, and desiring babies.

My mother was sick with Early Onset Alzheimer's for over 13 years and died 2 years ago this month. In those 15 years, I often shared through social media, blogging, speeches, and with acquaintances and dear friends about the unique pain of grieving a parent who is still alive and subsequently burying a parent you were already mourning and missing. 

But for the last 8 years, I have not shared much about our fertility struggles. There were brief spurts on social media and even on this blog when I was brave, but it was fleeting. I think it's harder to be public about it because it is a wound that never heals, never scabs, never scars-it just keeps bleeding into every area of my life. Lifting the fragile bandages off this wound only exposes it to the callousness and lack of understanding of the world. So I only give the world glimpses and peeks under the bandage, afraid I will bleed to death if I am too exposed.

You see, when I tell people that my mother didn't remember my name, or know who I was, or couldn't talk or walk, they can briefly imagine their parent with such an illness. They can wear that grief for a second or two. But when I tell them I want to be a mother, and we haven't been able to conceive, people simply cannot forget their children exist- this grief doesn't fit, they cannot wear even for a moment. They cannot imagine a world where they long for parenthood because they are actively parenting in their real world. They cannot empathize their real-life babies into mere dreams.

When people cannot grasp the pain you are in, they respond to it in a myriad of hurtful ways. This includes, but is not limited to, telling me I was not meant to be a mother, giving bad advice, asking extremely personal questions about our reproductive organs, making jokes, and giving more bad advice. Many people have told me to relax. One woman told me I just needed to get drunk and have fun with my husband. Honey, we have lots of fun. One time, our pastor's wife asked me, whose "fault" it was that we didn't have kids. I did not tell her.

First of all, it is no one's fault. I have many conversations with God, many pleading, desperate conversations about our unfulfilled desire for children. Still, I am no closer to understanding why we have not had babies. I see slivers of purpose for this pain, but I have no flowery explanation to share with you. What I can tell you is that I trust God and His plan for our family - even if I yell at Him like an inpatient, petulant child. But what I will not tell you is anything clinical related to this journey. I might tell you about the many tests we both have endured, about the invasive ultrasound wands, the humiliation and pain of a hysterosalpingogram. But I won't tell you if we ever received a diagnosis. I will vaguely tell you that the ART routes we attempted were all blocked and that I believe that was part of God's plan.

But I won't give you any details. I won't share reports or doctor's words. If you are a praying person and want to pray for our family, this is not information that you need. It is information that many people want. I believe how we pray matters, I believe that doubt is powerful, and our words matter.

While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler's house some who said, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?" But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe."  And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, "Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping." And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, "Talitha cumi," which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise." And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat. Mark 5:35-41

If you're praying for me to be ok with a childless life, please stop praying; those are prayers I do not need. If you look at 8 years and only see a mountain of impossibility, I ask for you to search for a mustard seed. If that mustard seed cannot be found, I ask you to completely put our predicament out of your mind. We do not need the doubt of others in our ears or in your prayers; we battle in our hearts and minds enough without your intrusions. We strive to rid ourselves of fear, and only believe; to take all the doubts and doubters and put them outside.

But silence is not what I seek. I will admit that Mark and I have different needs, and I think silence is indeed what he often seeks. But ignoring the gaping wound provides no balm or comfort. People are uncomfortable with pain and grief and, therefore, purposely ignore and avoid it. I know many women who have lost children, they think about them every day, your mentioning their name is not protecting them, or bringing up what was not already on their minds. Every day I feel the absence of children in my life. I am not depressed or forlorn every single day. I definitely have moments of despair; holidays and the darkness of winter are hard. But I live knowing something is missing. I live expectantly. I have a beautiful, thriving marriage and a husband that can always make me laugh. I have friends who are like family and family who are close and caring. My life is good. And yet, it is missing something. I am filled with joy, but I hold grief in my heart. Life is a collage of contradictions. We exist in the 'and' of beauty and pain. We all do. I've gotten more comfortable with the in-between in recent years.

If you are expectantly praying and hoping for us, if you think about our struggles with sympathy, if you want to support us- let us know! Break the silence. A simple text or card doesn't upset me; it makes me feel seen and loved. Infertility is a lonely community- there are thousands of men and women in private support groups who quietly walk this path every day. You work with them, you go to church with them, but you don't know their daily pain. It is a private ache, and we are afraid that your lack of empathy will cause us to drown in the blood of our emotional wounds. But your encouragement applies pressure to the wound and strengthens our resolve.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Knowing Evil

When it comes to Christianity, social media is a fascinating and perplexing medium these days. Specifically, I see many Christians posting, Tweeting, and advocating for fellow Christians to “stand up against evil!” or “We need to fight against evil!” On the surface, this emotional “call to arms” appears rational, appropriate, and necessary. However, if we look a bit deeper, things are not exactly what they seem. 

Just yesterday, I responded to a few posts and Tweets where the author pleaded for Christians to stand up and fight against “evil.” To which I merely replied: “what do you consider evil?” The responses I received varied from “are you a reprobate? I shouldn’t have to explain this to you!” to “you must be a leftist idiot!” I found all these responses rather peculiar since not one of them expounded on exactly what the “evil” was we’re to be fighting? If I pressed them, I was almost always blocked, unfollowed, or unfriended. So when I dug a bit deeper into these “Christian” accounts, it became clear of what they considered the “pinnacles of evil”: 

1. Election fraud (Trump won!) 
2. Mask mandates (This is nothing more than Social Control and Communism.) 
3 Covid-19 (Hoax. The Democrats used it to destroy the economy.)
4. The vaccine (This is nothing more than mRNA reprogramming.) 
5. Biden Inauguration (Illegitimate! And the AntiChrist is most likely going to make an appearance.) 

 Christians that espouse the list above almost always have a select Bible verse to justify their post/Tweet, so how can you argue with that? Though I do find eisegesis to be disingenuous and disgusting. 

 As Christians, we do both Christianity and the World a disservice when our political ideology blinds us to the real evils and needs that surround us: 

  1. Poverty (hunger, homelessness, quality daycare) Racism 
  2.  Consistent life ethic ( death penalty, abortion, and helping struggling single parents) 
  3. Human trafficking 
  4.  Helping prisoners and widows/shut-ins.

This list is not exhaustive, so feel free to add yours to the comments below.

Blessings to you and yours!

Sunday, January 3, 2021

How Trump-supporting “Christians” are destroying the local church

(It might not be a bad thing)

We currently live in Sioux Falls, SD, where are there are over 125 local churches. These churches include all mainline denominations as well as non-denominations. All these churches are brick and mortar buildings that require utilities and upkeep. I’m not going to speculate about the amount of money it takes to keep these god-pods up and running, but I will say it is substantial. What a damn waste of time, money, and resources!

We live in a day when it is profitable to be a “prophet” and run a church, but perhaps those days are coming to a close? Prosperity preachers and evangelicals have thrown their hats, as well as their pulpits, in the ring for President Trump, which may be their undoing. We have seen this in the city of Sioux Falls as well. Many of our local evangelical preachers have not only been Trump supporters, but they have also been Covid-deniers and anti-maskers as well. At first, I was perplexed by their behavior; however, it didn’t take long to see that the main driver here had nothing to with God or Jesus; it was purely about the almighty dollar: the alluring, unholy god of avarice.

It is not my intention to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater, but I advocate for these Trump-god churches to be taxed or shut down. In my opinion, this would be about 30% of the churches in my hometown (a conservative estimate). 

Good riddance. 

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Tales of a Grinch's Holiday Hangover.

 It’s me, I’m the grinch.

“Have you been stressed?” my chiropractor asks me. I’m getting a full exam instead of just a regular adjustment. It’s a super exciting way to ring in 2020. She informs me that I’m tight from the base of skull down to the curve of my ass cheeks.

I pause to consider if I’ve been stressed, somehow forgetting that I just recently escaped the abomination that is the Holiday Season.

“Well, I hate December and everything that comes with it,” I give as an answer.

It seems my back and neck are still clinging to the after effects of the holidays. My muscles are suffering from a Christmas hangover. I was wondering where I was hiding that anxiety, glad to have found it.
Photo by Lynne Hl

The fact that I was born in December doesn’t seem to save the month from my yearly aversion. I have also grown to detest the yearly reminder of my march towards oblivion.

My chiropractor briefly agrees with me regarding the awfulness of the holidays. This comes as a relief. Often when the secret of my grinchiness gets out, people pry. People seem to expect me to present a burden of proof to justify my hatred of the holidays.

The thing is, I don’t hate your holidays. I hate MY holidays.

I’m a fairly open person. Ok, if I’m being an honest, I’m a recovering over-sharer. Boundaries and personal space were hard lessons I eventually learned in my mid to late twenties.

I learned these lessons partly because I married a very private person and I respect my husband enough not share on his behalf. 

Also because in the last 8 years I’ve morphed into a woman whose mom is slowly dying from a wretched disease AND who suffers from infertility and the resulting childlessness. It’s a heavy combo and it doesn’t always make for the greatest small talk. Therefore, I avoid talking about these things with new people. Or I introduce these gems of my life by making jokes about them. I’ve found out, not everyone appreciates dark humor.

If I let my holiday hatred spew out, people are certain to press me for more information. I’m sure it blows many a mind that a vocal Christian and church goer like myself does not want to get all tinseled up to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Listen, I love Jesus, and I’m grateful for Him every day. I just hate His birthday. I mean, I hate mine too.

This year there as been an interesting change. My mom died in February. Therefore when people are trying to figure out my reason for the bahhumbugs they get this really pitiful look on their face and say something like, “Ohhh, the first year without a loved one is really hard.”

To which I tend to blurt out, “But she hasn’t actually been a part of our holiday festivities for like, 8 years. She’s been in a nursing home and hasn’t spoken. So, it’s not the first year without her,” because I like to add an extra dose of awkward to the situation.

This exchange tends to make people pretty uncomfortable and tends to work in my favor. Everyone wants to tell me what grieving my mom is supposed to look like and that’s a great distraction so I don’t have to ruin their Christmas joy and get into the real reasons I hate the holidays.

Truthfully, at first it really was about my mom. Those first few years post-diagnosis I created so many expectations for myself to attempt to fill the gaping hole that my mom’s deteriorating brain had left. 
By the time the 23rd of 24th of December rolled around I was ball of nerves yelling at those I loved or crying about pie crust or monster cookies. 

I had to let go of that stuff and allow new traditions and new expectations (or no expectations) replace the years of healthy mom holidays.

After she moved into a nursing home I started wishing December had a forward button on December I could push and somehow safely land in January avoiding holiday-induced crying jags on the living room floor.

But still the worst of my grinchiness hadn’t set in yet.

The real killer of good tidings of comfort and joy is ....continue reading on Medium.  

Monday, December 9, 2019

"You can have some," and other Remembered Words of Alzheimer's

I don’t remember the last time I heard my mother say, “I love you.”

I don’t remember the last time she said it to me or to anyone else.

She died this past February. But the last time I heard the words, “I love you” pass through her lips was many years before. If I had to guess, I would guess it was in 2011.

It’s hard to remember much of what she actually said to me in my life. When I was 24 she was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s disease. Even then in the early stages, conversation was difficult and awkward. Alzheimer’s was like the ugly elephant in the room stepping on our mouths, preventing the usual chatter exchanged between mother and daughter.

So I would sit and watch Family Feud with her. Or sit next to her and thumb through books of cross-stitch patterns, writing my name next to the ones I wanted her to stitch. I probably wrote my name on over a 100 of those patterns. I didn’t really want any of them. Cross-stitch wasn’t my thing, and it definitely wasn’t my style. But she learned cross-stitch when she was young, and her hands remembered it even when her mind failed her. She couldn’t work as a nurse anymore, couldn’t provide the emotional support to her children that she used to, so she spent hours on elaborate cross stitch patterns. She threaded together words and pictures almost every day. I didn’t want those pictures at the time, but I wanted to give my mother purpose- and she wanted to give us whatever she could. So I wrote my name, and she stitched.

I can’t remember many significant conversations with her. I just remember hours sharing space with her on the couches in her living room and occasionally on long walks. In later years I shared space with her in cramped nursing home bedrooms. Regardless of the venue, I strain to hear her voice in my memories.

Even when Mark proposed, I know she was one of the first people I told- but...Continue reading on Medium here

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Update and Exciting Announcements

Hi Friends!  Or whoever still pays attention to this very neglected space.  2019.  Oof.  It's been a weird year.  This is literally the second post on 3-Fold Cord this year.  And it's the first time you've heard from me in almost 2 years.  I can't tell you how many times I had 5 or more ideas floating around my head that I wanted to flesh out into a post.  But somehow, it hasn't happened.  Call it busyness, laziness, or a lack of commitment, I will admit to any of them.  The last 4 years have been full of both changes and also much of the same. 
This year has been a strange for me.  In January Mark declared it would be THE year and it has definitely not been THE year I was expecting.

Friday, January 18, 2019

4 Dangerous Words

I believe the four most dangerous words in the English language for Christians are: “Thy Will be done.” I realize we Christians give a lot of lip service to these words- and the truth is- how can we not? I mean when the disciples asked Jesus to “teach us how to pray?” Jesus uttered these exact words when reciting what has come to be known as the Lord’s Prayer. That being said, have we really considered the ramifications of these words? Up until a couple years ago I know I didn’t. Many of us really believe that wherever we are, and whatever we are doing, it’s God ordained. I have come to realize that nothing could be further from the truth. 

My personal experience, when I prayed those powerful words, and meant it, was my world began to be shaken to the core! The things that once gave me security started to foundationally erode; the things that I thought made me happy gradually became bitter. This was God’s Will…this was God’s plan. And while common sense would say, “just surrender”, I had other ideas: I fought it tooth and nail; I became angry at God! I believe my response is all too common in Christendom. We have been programmed to believe that if we are comfortable and secure, God is blessing us. However, if our supports and securities are getting kicked out from underneath us, God is angry and punishing us. The truth is, God has had a plan for each and every one of us before time began, but ultimately, when it comes to our life, we have the choice of “thy will be done” or “my will be done”. The former is not the smoothest most comfortable path, it is the narrow path. This path is often wrought with trials and attacks from the enemy…however, this is nothing more than a refining process that strips away the follies of the flesh and molds us into the image of Jesus Christ.

In closing, when you pray the words, “Thy Will be done”, do you really mean it?