Excerpt from the devotional Waiting for God to Fill the Cradle - for Infertility Awareness Month
Recently, two women were sharing their deep disappointment over their friends having more kids and their not being pregnant again - yes, again. Their struggle is certainly not to be discounted. But I sat there thinking, "At least you have one!"
I've read the Internet articles about infertility and know that without God's hand of intervention, the statistics say bearing children is out of the picture for us. It is easy to get pretty good and down in the dumps over the emptiness those stats declare over my situation. But, God's Word gives me two pieces of hope to hang onto when my thoughts turn gloomy.
First, all children are a gift from God's hand and some of us He just makes more keenly aware of that fact! So, I am praying and waiting for Him to provide instead of giving scientific research the last word on the matter. Secondly, over the desolate, lonely, and barren places in our life God speaks these words over us:
It will no longer be said to you, "Forsaken," nor to your land will it any longer be said, "Desolate"; but you will be called, "My delight is in her," and your land, "Married"; for the LORD delights in you, and to Him your land will be married. Isaiah 62:4
There is hope! God will not leave us alone because He calls us into intimate relationship with Him. And over even the things in my life that say "Failure" "Broken" "Worthless" "Void" He will rename them "My Delight"! I am not on the other side of this, but I am hanging onto every ounce of encouragement and hope I can get from God! And over and over again His Word reveals that He is in the business of turning empty into full and victim to victor. Any one of us could get lost wandering the wasteland of our childless state. We could get depressed, bitter, angry. We could ruin our marriages or cut God off completely. But in the end, we would be the losers. So, I am choosing to hold onto God's character and His track record of goodness, sovereignty and His ability to turn any situation around. I am waiting to see what He does with this thing that feels so "Desolate" and what happens when He renames it "My Delight."
For more encouragement on the topic of infertility, read Waiting for God to Fill the Cradle: A One Month Devotional for Couples.
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We all journey into marriage with our hearts brimming over with hopes and dreams. But all the aspirations in the world don’t stop life from jumping in and trying to spoil the joy of being married. A lot can happen between the “I do” at the altar and the years that follow. We can end up married to someone yet emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically disengaged.
I have come to believe that one primary problem (beside unresolved hurts in your marriage) seems to sit at the root of most couples who feel disconnected.
I call it the “full plate” phenomenon. When your spouse (or you) has something that puts them emotionally, mentally, physically or spiritually on overload something else has to be shut off in life -- and that something else often becomes your marriage.
See if any of these scenarios sound familiar:
Job Stress Your spouse gets a new job (great, right?) but is entirely consumed with work. Even at home, the calls and emails never stop. You hear your spouse act jovial and upbeat with colleagues for phone conversations, but when you try to talk to him or her, all you get is a short answer. They seem unappreciative of the ways you help, and you feel ignored and out of the loop.
Baby Blues You just had a baby, and one of the happiest moments of your life seems to be pulling you apart. Your wife is constantly exhausted, concerned more about the baby than you, and seems to have lost the “fun” side of her personality. Your husband seems to have found 101 ways to be unavailable to help. You both feel alone, overwhelmed and maybe a bit resentful of the other person. You wonder why this bundle of joy is zapping yours.
Maybe your spouse doesn't have the stress of a new job but instead, like many in today's economy, lost his or her job -- and isn’t doing much to get a new one. Or perhaps she just quit housekeeping, or maybe he completely stopped coming to church and praying with you.
The list of examples could go on for miles, but in each of these situations, the disengaged spouses have full plates. That individual is emotionally, physically, mentally or spiritually on overload, and when it comes to their marriage, well, there just isn’t much left over!
Regardless of the specifics of your situation, "full plate" scenarios can be boiled down to four basic types you need to be aware of:
Emotional Overload Emotional wounds sap a ton of energy as we either ignore them, push through them or sit down and cry about them. Unresolved pain in your life takes up heart space that could otherwise be given to the Lord, your spouse, your family, etc.
If you have an emotional wound, God wants to heal you! He is in the business of repairing the broken! I minister to women, and I hear their stories of hurt. I see their bewildered husbands who don’t understand why their wives seem to suddenly lose interested in sex, keeping up the house and even talking to them (you know there is something seriously wrong when a woman doesn’t want to talk!).
In each of the cases I have seen, the wife has had a full plate of hurt and has shut down under the weight of it. Sometimes the hurt can be old, and she is just now coming to the place where she is starting to emotionally process it. Or, sometimes she has gotten stuck in the healing process somewhere along the way.
As I mentioned earlier, you or your spouse could also be emotionally on overload because of a life transition, like a new job or baby. Life is fast paced, change is constant, and sometimes our emotions get tangled along the way. Some changes can be good, like having a new baby or buying a home. Yet they still wear you out emotionally. From losing a job to losing a loved one, crisis situations can put a big strain on you individually or as a couple. New babies and seeing those babies leave the nest are some of the hardest emotional transitions in the phases of marriage.
Physical Overload Life is full of work -- hard work. And some phases and stages seem to require more physical labor than others. Babies and toddlers require a ton of energy. Many jobs leave us with aching backs and sore muscles. Pain also drains us. So if your spouse has chronic pain or has been through some kind of illness, their physical issues just might be so exhausting and distracting that they can't see past them to connect with you the way you'd like.
Mental Overload For those couples who are balancing lots of responsibilities like work, school and kids, mental overload can really take its toll. Juggling lots of responsibilities uses up brain-space. Learning how to manage a new responsibility also uses up mental energy. You or your spouse might have so many things to mentally process, you don’t have much left over with which to engage each other. Excess TV watching is a symptom of mental overload in our house. One or both of us is just too mentally worn out to be creative enough to do things together...or sometimes even find coherent words to string together!
Spiritual Overload Usually, being spiritually overloaded is more akin to being spiritually “under”-loaded. I see this with husbands more than wives, and it usually starts somewhere else first. For example, a really good-hearted man who was out of work for a time got into some debt. He began working very hard to get out of debt. He took every side job possible and worked long hours. His growing family motivated him want to work hard to provide for them.
This husband's efforts and motivations were essentially good. But in the process of taking on all this new responsibility, he stopped being the spiritual leader of their marriage. He stopped reading his Bible and attending a small group. Time and time again he came up spiritually empty when his family needed him, so now he avoids those situations and thrusts himself into the area of life he knows he can be successful--work.
Spiritual overload might also take place when a spouse is unsaved or is walking in disobedience. Any disruption to your spouse’s connection with God will in some way affect their connection with you and your family.
How Do We Reconnect?
During transitional phases, Eric and I usually experience disconnection in our marriage because of physical and emotional exhaustion. Eric needs space to process and get used to the new norm of life. I, on the other hand, need him even more during those times to listen to me verbally process life. I need him to pray with me more as I share my concerns.
The first few times this transition scenario presented itself in our marriage, I emotionally chased after him, and he kept pushing me away trying to find the space he needed. Now, I have learned to spot the signals of this situation and give him the space he needs. And guess what? We engage faster when I allow him time and space! He's also learned how to help me and together we've found a better balance for processing life's transitions.
Identifying the reasons behind feeling disengaged from your spouse can help you navigate the situation successfully. Instead of soaking up hurt feelings or blaming your spouse, you can work together on the heart of the issue.
If you are the one who has pulled away from your spouse, consider the reasons, ask your spouse to forgive you and begin to make the changes necessary to reconnect. Perhaps you need to sit down together and plan out a balanced schedule. The solution may include finding ways to more efficiently use your time so you have more time with the Lord, your spouse, or even more alone time to recharge your batteries so you have quality attention and energy to give to your family.
If you feel that your spouse has disconnected from you, pray about the source of the disconnect and see how you can help your spouse with their “full plate” issue. Again, seek the source of the disconnection and sit down together to solve the problem as a team.
Life is always going to be full; full of joys, hardships, changes and new things. Learning to manage the fullness of life together will enable you both to experience life at its best with a marriage that is wholly and happily engaged!
April is Infertility Awareness month. While we generally share items of interest for the bulk of the population, during this particular month we like to highlight the subject of infertility because we know from experience it can be a very hard journey as individuals and as a couple. We hope you will find some encouragement as we share this series of devotional thoughts with you the next four weeks. If you are walking this journey, we'd love to pray for you, so drop us a line. If you know someone who could use some encouragement for their journey, please let them know we will be posting on the topic. In the meantime, don't miss the devotional give-away at the close of the post.
With love and prayers,
IF. Stands for infertility. A big ugly word that hangs over the hearts of more than seven million people. It’s also a complicated word. It’s a word that lots of people think is an easy fix when it’s not. It's word that simultaneously brings silence and shouting to deep places in one’s soul. A word that touches things inside you that you didn’t want to be touched. And it’s not the end of the story.
As my husband and I have traveled this road of waiting to have a baby, of doctor’s appointments, prayer, seeking, hoping, reading and studying, charting temperatures and unmentionables, and buying an insane amount of pregnancy tests, we’ve learned things about God, about each other, about ourselves and about the power of empty places. God does amazing things in and through empty places.
• The bottom of an empty well was the beginning of Joseph's destiny (Genesis 37:24)
• A poverty stricken widow with children’s mouths to fill was at the end of her rope and found hope when God sent provision through Elisha and some empty jars (2 Kings 4:3-7)
• The best of all the "empty" things in Scripture is the empty tomb (Luke 22:12)
The empty tomb means that Christ could not be held by the power of death and that He was indeed the sacrifice to end all sacrifices so that we might have forgiveness from our sins (Hebrews 10:10). Now we, "know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God"1 Peter 1:18-19 NLT.
Empty things no longer have a hold on our new life in Christ! Through the wrestling with emotions, laboring in prayer and the intensity of this journey, we’ve sought to lift up this empty place in our lives to let God do with it what He wanted.
Whether your wait for a baby feels like an eternity or has just begun, the issue of infertility or struggling to conceive reaches far and wide across our identities, relationships with friends and family, our marriage and even our relationship with God. And while the process hurts beyond description, if we let Him, God can do a beautiful work through all of it.
Consider the following stories from Scripture:
Ruth had been widowed at a young age. Her devotion to God led her to follow her also widowed mother-in-law back to the homeland of Israel. Ruth would always be a Moabite to the Jews - a foreigner. She couldn’t let herself dream of a husband, let alone ever having a baby. She would do well just to be able to work hard enough to feed herself and Naomi. But God had a plan. He blessed her with a good man, a son and a place in the lineage of Christ. His hand filled her emptiness and her life reflected His goodness.
A barren couple went about life as usual. The chores. The work. The wishing for a baby couldn’t be silenced, but what could they do? Manoah and his wife had no choice but to plug along and make do. Then one day an angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and promised her a baby. Not just any baby, but one with a special destiny. He would rescue Israel from her enemies. He would be a mighty warrior and judge. He would be Samson. And this couple would raise him in an unusual way to prepare him for all that God had in store for him.
Scripture records Elkanah and Hannah, Zacharias and Elizabeth, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah as also being couples that God prepared for parenting a special child by giving them a long season of barrenness. I don’t know what God has planned for our family or yours, but I do know that He doesn’t waste our pain. He has collected every tear (Psalm 56:8) we cried as another month passed into another year without a baby. He has seen the longings of our hearts. God might be preparing us to parent a child with a special destiny like the parents from the above scripture passages. He also might have a great purpose for us to live out without having children of our own.
He makes the barren woman abide in the house
As a joyful mother of children.
Praise the LORD! Psalm 113:9 NAS
There are kids at church, teens in your neighborhood, babies in foster care and adoption centers and children waiting to be “adopted” through organizations like Compassion. Now, I’ve been the recipient of a fair amount of comments like, “Just adopt.” Some of us with empty cradles feel led to adopt, some of us don’t. Some of us have tried and had the door shut. So I’m not throwing out some simple-fix answer. Just reminding us all that there might be things God has for us to accomplish without children of our own so that we might bless His children. Paul referred to Timothy as a spiritual son. Children can come in a variety of ways.
Can you imagine with some seven million people in the U.S. alone (as of the most recent available stats) who sought IF treatments, if we all prayed for direction to know how to bless just one of God’s kids what a difference He might make in this world through our “emptiness?” Whether God fills your family with blessed little ones or fills your heart with His children, I pray that you and your spouse would be comforted with the truth that God sees you, that He loves you, that you are not forgotten and that He has a plan - a good, wonderful, gracious plan.
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Looking for more encouragement for your journey through infertility? Check out: Waiting for God to Fill the Cradle - One Month Devotional for Couples It's not a pretty subject. It's not a warm-fuzzy feeling. The struggle with infertility or hampered fertility is a heavy burden for couples all over the world! In the U.S. alone more than 7.3 million people sought treatment for infertility in the last year - so guess what, you are NOT alone!
And better yet, God sees YOU!
Come along with us on this month long journey to discover God's heart for those of us who are waiting for Him to fill our cradles! PS- Stick around for the rest of this series and if you have any friends who might be struggling with infertility, invite them along! April is infertility awareness month and we are highlighting this issue this month.
(Article first published on Crosswalk.com )
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To all the other wives out there, I wanted to pass along an invite from my friend and mentor, Pam Farrel :) You can still join this exciting journey, so take a moment to stop by her Red Hot Challenge page and sign up!
Join me for a 26 day Red Hot Wife challenge. We will journey together to become a more kind, loving and romantic wife as we look at the 26 traits (A to Z) that make a wife more desirable to her man.
Each weekday (M - F), beginning April 2, I will post to the Bill and Pam Facebook page. I also will email you and post an encouraging verse, idea and/or challenge on our PRIVATE FaceBook Group Page that will help you love your husband just a little bit more (and in turn, he will love you a WHOLE lot more!) Once you have registered above, I will send you an invitation that you will receive by email. This will be a PRIVATE facebook group so you can talk to me (and if you want, dialogue with one another) and message me questions. It will be like having coffee with a girlfriend—you bring the java and I will bring my advice, insights and encouragement and we will all pray for each other!
All you will need for the challenge is a copy of Red Hot Romance Tips for Women and a heart willing to love. (Only $5 [plus shipping] right now on Love-Wise.com or $4.61 for the Kindle version on Amazon.com.) (You can read on your Kindle or on your smartphone or tablet using the free Kindle APP.) You might also want to ask a friend (or a group of friends) who also want to improve their marriage(s) to join you!
As a part of the challenge, there will be drawings and giveaways for various Farrel authored resources, resources from some of my friends who write for wives, and other romantic items, dates etc. (You will need a copy of the book for clues for some of the challenges). We will have FUN as we practice romancing our guys. It is will be a fun, yet simple, adventure to the heart of love and a way to practice the skills that will fan the flame on romance and intimacy.
Steps to join the Red Hot Wife Challenge:
- Sign up for the challenge at the top of this page - you will be emailed a link to the PRIVATE group Facebook page, request to join. On this page we can discuss the day's topic and pray for each other.
- Be sure to "like" the Pam and Bill Farrel facebook page and check in daily.
Order your copy of Red Hot Romance Tips for Women
- Invite friends to join you
Looking forward to time with you as we build our marriages and families!
For more information on the encouraging resources offered by the Farrels, visit their website at http://love-wise.com
Also, you can enter to win a free copy of Red Hot Romance Tips for Women in the sign-up box below (if the entry form does not appear, click here).