Friday, June 14, 2013

Cherishing the Unknown

There are so many times in our lives that we go into auto-pilot.  Life gets mundane. Every day starts the same, carries on the same, and ends the same.  We literally stop thinking about what's next.  We stop considering things around us.  We stop looking at how amazing life is, how terrifying it is, how ridiculously unpredictable it is.


And then all of a sudden... there's turbulence.  A sudden drop in temperature or shift of the wind and everything feels like it's falling.  You feel as if you've lost control of this perfectly smooth flight of your life. 


At that moment, you remember you're alive.  Whether it's joy or pain that you're feeling, you realize again that there's so much unknown all around you and that you need to look around every once in a while.  Maybe stray from that mindless path you walk everyday just so you can experience this life that God has designed for us.... just so you can feel the excitement of not knowing where your feet are going to land next. 

I know so many people who are run by routine, that never see anything different than what they've laid out in their schedules.  I don't want to be like that.  If you really start looking around you, you see that there's nothing boring about this world we live in.  Make a point to see something every day that you've never seen before.  It's easier than you think.  A lot of things your eyes pass right over, make yourself actually see them.  Be aware.  Absorb things.  Learn.  Appreciate.  Cherish it



There will be days when appreciation for anything seems difficult... those are the times that you can dig these etchings out of your mental catalog to remind yourself how amazing the world is, even when it feels like it's falling apart. 

When something is coming undone, that's when you see what it's actually made of... all of its components, the inner workings.  Then you either fix it... or make something new. 


All photos ©2013 Shannon Venanzio. Images may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of Shannon Venanzio.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Finding Your Grace and Owning It.


 One of the things I've had to deal with for as long as I can remember is people assuming I'm unintelligent because I care about the way I look, I like shopping and watching Real Housewives of New Jersey... and I'm just an assistant.

Every job I've had since joining the corporate world has given me the same opportunities to feel stupid. 

Yes, I'm technically a secretary, but the thing most don't realize is that I actually take pride in my job.  I don't view my position the way others do.  My job is to help others succeed.  My job is to make others look good and do their jobs well.  My job is to support and serve.  My job is to say "yes" when asked to help, not to be the one asking for help.  In my opinion, a position like this takes a certain kind of grace.  Not everyone can always live with not having authority to exercise.  People have a misconceived notion that you aren't successful unless you have subordinates that answer to you.

It's taken a while for me to get to the point where others' opinions have little affect on me.  I have to admit, having my degree has helped.  Before I went back to school, I always believed what people said.. that I was only an assistant because I couldn't be anything else.

So I decided to go back to school for something that I knew would be a challenge for me.  And I kicked butt.  I graduated top of my class with a 4.0 GPA in Architectural Drafting.  I proved to myself that I wasn't stupid.  (which I should have never had to do.)

And I'm still an assistant. 

I looked into getting into architecture and realized, although I was good at it, it wasn't what I wanted to do.  What I wanted to do... what I want to do... is be an assistant.

I like what I do.  I'm proud of what I do.  I'm good at what I do.  I choose to do what I do. 

It's hard to find the value in yourself when what others tell you doesn't align with what God's word says.  It's hard to be confident in what you do when people tell you you're doing it because you're stupid.

1 John 3:1 - What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it - we're called children of God! That's who we really are. But that's also why the world doesn't recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he's up to.  (The Message)

You have to remind yourself that those people are small minded.  All of us have different giftings.  Not all of us are meant to be CEOs or rock stars.  Some of us are meant to help the CEOs and the rock stars... because without us, they wouldn't be able to do what they do. 

I'm an assistant to a Vice President.  I'm background vocals for the worship leader.  I'm a wife to a Godly man.  If I never move out of these peoples' shadows, then I consider myself blessed to be a support to such amazing people.  Their accomplishments become mine because I've been a help.  Their successes are mine, their failures are mine and I take pride and responsibility for all of it. 

If that doesn't take grace, I don't know what grace is for.  I'd rather live my life with grace than glory.  I'd rather have mercy than authority.  I'd rather be a servant than be served.

I consider myself a success.  And if you are where you want to be... then you should consider yourself a success, too.  If you are where God wants you to be, then you are a success. 

If others feel the need to demean your position in life, your job, the way you look, what you do, then chances are, they themselves do not feel successful and are generally  discontent with where their lives are. 

It's hard to bite your tongue when someone attacks you for being who you are. There are some times when people don't even realize what they're saying hurts you.  For me, the best thing to do is remind myself that I'm happy regardless of what they say, so it doesn't matter.  It doesn't matter if I point out what a jerk they are.  I don't need to make them realize they're wrong because I'm secure in myself.  

Now don't get me wrong, I've had my fair share of hurt feelings as a result of people and their ignorantly stated snide remarks, but, it's true what they say, eventually you develop thick skin.  Also, writing things down like this help you to see things objectively.  I guess most of my blog posts here start as a negative emotion... and by the end of it I'm determined to turn it into a positive.  You should try it!

What you need to do, though.. is find your grace, your gifts and own it.  Who cares what the world's standards are and what critical people say, take pride in the grace God has given you, find your strength, and make it stronger.  And don't EVER let another person's words stop you.
  
Colossians 3:12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Proverbs 11:25 Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.

Matthew 25:21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’'

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Writing Things Down Again

So, it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything here. I've been inspired by my good friend Becky of The Voice of Godlove to keep writing.. that it's good for me, and it's good for others, too.

The past few months (6 to be exact) have been a roller coaster for me.

Early last year I made the decision to take myself off all the anxiety medications. I was SO sure it was the right thing to do. I involved my doctor in the choice. She gave me all of the necessary steps to take.

Despite taking all the right steps, I still went through withdrawal and it was MISERABLE.

Typically, withdrawal symptoms are supposed to last about 2 weeks. Mine never stopped.  For months, they never stopped.

It was week after week of not being able to breathe, pounding headaches, hot flashes, racing heart… but I dealt with it because being off the meds is what I wanted.

And the reason was because I wanted a baby. Again.

I was waiting the prescribed 6 months after ceasing meds to begin trying to get pregnant. In the meantime, when I had gone for a physical regarding tapering of the meds, my doctor had indicated that my heart murmur was “getting louder”.

I was sent to see a cardiologist. I was told that I have a deformity in my left ventrical causing mitral valve prolapse and regurgitation. Great. I was told this could possibly make getting pregnant dangerous. Great. I was scared. Really scared. I had felt for sometime, years really, that something was wrong with my heart. Even when I was a teenager I could feel it. But, me never being athletic, it never seemed to matter. It kept beating (however irregularly), so I kept ignoring it.

Then, in June, I had a meltdown.

I had been on vacation with my whole family for a week in an amazingly beautiful lakehouse in North Carolina. And I was miserable the entire time. Everything bothered me, I constantly felt sick, I just wanted to be home.

The night we got home… I started crying and I didn’t stop for 8 hours.

I was panicked. I didn’t want to end up in the crazy ward of the hospital again with a crazy woman throwing buckets of ice at the wall.

The next day I immediately called my doctor and we both decided I needed to be put back on the meds. This wasn’t something I could “will” myself out of. Hormones aren’t something you can change by thinking happy thoughts.

So now, I’m medicated, I hardly ever cry and I’m getting my crap together! It was hard for me to admit, though, that I needed the pills to make this all happen. But, now that I see how much better it’s making my life, I’m grateful for them and the fact that God gave someone the knowledge to create them. Who knows why my hormones are so out of whack? I’m still praying that it gets fixed some day, but I’m not letting it stop me from living my life to the fullest.



I still love my job. I now have eat.sleep.MAKE. with my sis-in-law. I’ve started running and even signed up to run the 5K in next year’s Pittsburgh Marathon. I convinced myself I’d never be a runner because of my heart. Well, I’m doing it now. I feel myself getting stronger. I feel my heart pumping blood and for the first time ever, I feel like I’m the one in charge, not my body. It’s finally doing what I tell it to do. It’s not controlling me anymore, I’m controlling it, and it is SUCH a rush. I finally understand what athletes feel. I am by no means an athlete, but I get it. I get why they do it, why they sacrifice and work so hard. It’s about being in charge.

The biggest change since going back on the meds, though, is my desire to have children. I love kids. I absolutely adore my neices and nephews, but I’m completely okay with not having any of my own. I have my step kids who are pretty much the awesomest. I really have nothing to complain about. I am one ridiculously blessed girl. I worry sometimes about when I get old and who will take care of me if I don’t have kids… when I say worry, I mean panic. I imagine myself being in a nursing home, sitting in a rocking chair wearing a moo moo, staring out a window… for days and days with no visitors except the staff.

Depressing, right?

Then I remind myself that God would never let me be alone like that and I decide to focus on the here and now. And the now… is pretty freaking awesome.

Back to running for a minute.  Writing this I have realized that running has taken on a deeper meaning for me than just getting in shape.  It's kind of my way of telling the universe that I can do what it says I can't do.  That I'm deciding for myself where I'm going and how I'm going to get there.  And as terrified as I am that I'll never be able to keep doing... I will someday cross the finish line.. my finish line and breathlessly tell myself, "I did it." 

That's pretty much all I want.. to finish and say, "I really did it".

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Journaling Through the Dark

I briefly kept a journal during my first marriage.  I wanted to document what I felt, what was happening, in the event that I was no longer around.  So dark, I know.  Here is a brief (horrifying) excerpt.  This isn't exaggerated in the least.  This is what I experienced every night when I would turn the lights off.  This is what night terrors are like.  If you've never experienced them, consider yourself blessed. 

I woke suddenly, gasping for air that didn't seem to exist in my small bedroom. A wave of panic and fear rippled through my body. I quickly tightened every muscle I was aware of, hoping that my movement didn't alert him to the fact that I was awake. It was too late. I knew that every tingle of fear I felt disturbed the air and that he felt it. My eyes wide open, I scanned the room as far as my peripheral vision would allow. I didn't want to move my head. I knew he was there, though, and I had to look. I tensed the muscles in my neck to lift my head. Nothing happened. I was paralyzed. The terror I felt almost became too much for my frail body to handle. I felt light-headed, like my lungs were being crushed. I lay completely still. I began moving my lips to recite the only words I knew could dispel this fear.

"The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? For God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of love, of power and of a sound mind".

I mechanically repeated these words over and over and over... whispering so softly that it was barely audible. I knew he could hear me, though. I knew those words would be my protection. Hebrews said that God would never leave me or forsake me. Right? He was here with me. Why did I feel so alone, then? Why did it feel as if this attack is meant for me to face alone? Why was this happening to me?

I pleaded to the silent God inside of my head, searching for answers to help me understand and give me courage. I lay, waiting. The fear was no less than it was the few minutes before.

I felt him close to me now. Beside my bed. If I moved at all, I would brush against him. My heart did not race or skip beats. My heart beat was even, but hard. It was so hard that it felt like it was attempting to pump blood through my body with a 200 pound rock sitting on top of it, fighting for my life. The tears came to my eyes now. They dared not fall down my skin onto the rough pillowcase, but instead welled into pools in my eye sockets. One blink and a waterfall of tears would begin, the movement setting him off.

I laid completely still for what seemed an eternity. My muscles were beginning to ache from being tense for so long. My mind was plagued with fatigue, but I dare not doze off. Whatever awaited me in my dreams could be no better than what I faced here in my bedroom.

The fear was strangling me. My chest still felt the pressure of his presence and breathing came as a struggle. The tears began to dry after a while. I'm guessing an hour or so had passed. I closed my eyes and forced my imagination to form images of things that brought me peace. It took all the effort in my weak and tired body to form this imaginary happy place. This didn't come naturally to me. What was natural were thoughts of no longer existing. Thoughts of how someone would finally notice me if I ceased to exist. My normal thoughts always started with "What if...".

Now, because I had to, I took myself back to Pittsburgh to see my family. I imagined that I was with mom in her car driving down the winding road past the cemetery toward the mall. I thought of myself buying clothes that actually fit me and fit my personality. I thought about having my own money to spend in whatever way I pleased. I imagined eating dinner with my mom and dad. My mom was the best homemaker I had ever known. Complete strangers even felt welcomed in our house.

I remembered one time when I was little, probably around 6 or 7 years old. A young, college girl was going door to door selling Encyclopedia Britannica to earn extra money. The next thing I know, she was having dinner with my family. Another time, my mom was having issues getting past a certain level of Super Mario Brothers on the original Nintendo system. The paperboy knocked on the door to collect and my mom managed to get him to help her. He was a regular Nintendo consultant from that point on.

My mother always had a gift for making people comfortable. I always hoped to one day inherent that same characteristic. It didn't seem to come as naturally to me, though. I always had to beg people to come to my home. I always assumed I just wasn't blessed the way my mother was with the gift of hospitality.

Then the mirage ended as quickly as it began. I looked at the clock... Exactly 1 minute had passed. I realized I was in my own personal hell. A place where darkness swallows everything and time never moves. I wanted to be numb. I wanted my heart to feel nothing and my mind to think nothing. A mindless drone. It was the only way to survive. I decided that if I made it through this night, when the rayless sun would rise, I would begin my self-inflicted mandate to erase all emotion. After all, I was told this was the way of God. The path I was on was what God wanted for me.

Unbelievable.

I felt him move. I felt space closing in around me and the panic struck me again like a concrete block had been dropped on my chest from 10 feet above. I felt the space above my face getting smaller and smaller as he leaned in. I could sense the pleasure he was taking out of this. I prayed to myself that he would just end this finally. I wanted him to. More than anything. I needed this to be over. I didn't care anymore what the next life held, I just wanted this life to be over. If you could even call it a life.

My hoping was in vain. I knew he gained more pleasure from the paralyzing fear he gave me than he would from ending my life. His game would be over then. This sadistic game he played by coming into my room every night, hovering until I felt his cold blood sending shivers through the stale air of my room. Every night I would wake up with the same startling, agonizing fear. Every night I said the same prayers. Every night would end with me feeling more hopeless than the night before because nothing ever changed. Every morning... there was no trace of him anywhere. Only the stale tears on my face, the tear stains on the pillow case, and the sleep deprived bags under my eyes that were the only visible evidence of the burden I carried in my mind.

Within the first week of my being separated from him, the night terrors ceased.  I then realized that this was more than just being scared of the dark, it was a spiritual oppression.  I could feel the tangible change in the air in my bedroom when one of these "terrors" was taking place.  Whatever it was, I believe it was connected to my ex-husband and whatever stronghold he had over me.  I know it all sounds a little flaky, I would think so, too, if I hadn't lived through it.  The fact that it ended as soon as I left, though... I don't know what more proof someone would need.  I knew at the time that I was fighting a spiritual battle.  Praise the Lord, I won. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Faith is a Verb


Let’s face it, there are very few times in life when you stop and say, “hmm, I feel very faithful today.”

That’s because faith and feelings are not connected in any way whatsoever. If God had made them symbiotic of each other, we’d be walking around as big faithless lumps of flesh. Human emotions are too unstable to tether such a vital part of our existence to them.

Faith requires action, a decision, a choice to believe.

I’m learning this right now. The last visit to my doctor, I had the pleasure of hearing, “Hmm… your heart murmur is getting louder. Interesting.”

I don’t think anybody ever wants to hear their doctor say the word “interesting” in response to their health.

So Monday, I had an echocardiogram. For a while now I’ve been noticing subtle differences in my breathing and energy level. I’ve been dealing with heart palpitations, as well. It’s been frustrating. I had myself convinced I was just out of shape, but now I’m not so sure if that is the case.

Hopefully I will have the test results soon. But, until then, I choose to believe. I choose to believe that even if it is something, it’s going to be okay. As scary as it all is, I’m anxious to be able to walk up a flight of stairs without feeling like I’m going to pass out.

This goes without saying… I don’t feel like believing anything right now. What I feel like doing is going home, curling up into a ball in my bed and watching reruns of The Real Housewives of New Jersey so I can forget that I’m waiting for a doctor to tell me whether or not something is wrong with my little 30 year old heart.

What I’m doing instead is listening to songs with lyrics like, “higher than the mountains that I face, stronger than the power of the grave, constant in in the trial and the change, one thing remains, your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.” I’m reminding myself that I don’t have to be afraid of this, that God is bigger and stronger than a mere heart defect. He created this heart, He can fix this heart.

Part of me wants the doctor to say something is wrong. That way I can pray and believe and be healed, then say “Look what my God did for me…”

I’m not one to keep things like this to myself. When I’m going through something, I tell everybody. Not because I want pity, but I want their prayers. Like I’ve said before, it’s my spiritual family that makes things happen when I’m too beaten to pray for myself. It’s okay to get other people in on it. Matthew 18:20 says “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

I believe there have been more than a few times that the prayers of others were the only reason I got through my challenge.

So right now, I’m choosing to be faithful. I’m making the decision to stand in faith, not in fear. It’s really quite empowering, realizing that God has made provision for us so we never have to be afraid or ever do anything alone. If you think about it, and you believe it, it’s incredible. It makes the world seem small and possibilities countless.

Supporting Scriptures:

James 5:14-15 "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven."

Colossians 4:2 "Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving."

Ephesians 2:8-9 "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast."

Romans 8:28 "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."

1 Peter 1:7 "These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."

1 Corinthians 16:13 "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong."

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Dissolution of my Deceptively "Godly" Marriage

My first marriage, if nothing else, was most certainly a learning experience.

I learned that the hard limits I had drawn as a teenager in regards to marriage were complete crap. Wedding vows sound great… romantic… promising… but at the end of the ceremony, they’re just words. There’s no regulator standing by to make sure that each person abides by the unwritten rubrics of marriage, or the insouciantly spoken wedding vows… there’s only trust... Trust that you will love and protect each other as long as you both shall live.

The problem here lies in each person’s definitions of the words “love” and “protect”.

I found out very quickly that he and I defined those two words, those two actions, VERY differently.

For 2 years I believed everything he said to me... about me. I believed I was worthless without him. I believed I was stupid. I believed I was ugly. I believed he was the only reason I had for living. I believed that no one liked me.
Please keep in mind, that the person I’m describing (this version of myself) is long gone. She doesn’t exist anymore. This is simply a recollection of my past, not a documentary of the present.

Anyway, there were times after verbal and emotional thrashings that I literally could not stand anymore. I’d find sanctuary in my bathroom, the door locked, and a knife in my hand. I’d cry to God and implore him to get me out of my life. I told Him, “Dead or alive, I don’t care… I need out of this.” For an instant, peace would grab me and I’d let go of the knife… once again holding onto hope that things would change.

I had become so good at pretending nothing was wrong, that he and I were happy and in love, but with every false smile, the hatred of myself grew. The only source of happiness in my life was volunteering at my church’s youth group. Those kids were the only streak of light in my life and I adored every single one of them.

I lived in such a fog of deception for 2 years until the day I dared to defy him and he finally dropped the guise of the good Christian husband everyone thought he was, and punched me in the back of the head. In the instant it happened, when my sunglasses flew off my face from the impact, I knew that was my opportunity to change everything. I didn’t even cry. I whispered to myself, “Thank you, Jesus”.

It took my father sending me a pamphlet from a counseling center about abuse for me to realize that I was a victim… and had been all along, not just when he hit me.

I went through the pamphlet, checking off the things I was experiencing, the pamphlet qualifying each into categories… financial abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, spiritual abuse… the only one I couldn’t claim was sexual abuse (thank God), because he never wanted to touch me. (I have my theories about that, but I’m just going to keep those to myself.)

To make a long story short (and I will go into more detail about the sequence of events at a later date) I got the courage to leave. And I decided that I needed to tell people that abuse comes in all forms.. not just physical. I had believed for 2 years that the only excuse to leave a marriage is physical abuse. I think God knew I believed that and he allowed it to happen to get me out of there.. I never would have left otherwise, and I probably would have ended up committing suicide.

After my eyes were opened, I realized how ridiculous that belief is. My husband had broken the sacred institution of marriage long before he hit me. He vowed to honor me, protect me, love me… and as far as I can remember, he never did. In fact, he unashamedly did the opposite. I gave him chances, more than he deserved, but he refused to change. I know now that I should have left long before he hit me… God would have been okay with that. What everyone else thought, oh well… the ones that mattered got over it, the ones that didn’t… good riddance.

I know that there is scripture after scripture about divorce… that if a woman remarries while her husband is still alive, she is an adulteress. To be honest with you, I don’t know what’s right or wrong according to scripture. I believe there’s a lot of room left for interpretation. I do know, however, that my God doesn’t want me to live in fear and deception for the rest of my life. My God doesn’t want me in a marriage that would have led to me taking my own life.

1 Timothy 5:8 says, “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” This, for me, is more than enough justification for my decision. When my husband chose to abuse me, he blatantly denied the faith. He acted against the word of God… period.

And as far as God hating divorce… I believe He does. But, I believe He hates it only because of the pain leading to it. I do not believe that divorce is an unforgivable sin. I do not believe my being divorced has put me at odds with God. Honestly, I believe my divorce saved my life. I know every situation is different, but I'm just telling you my beliefs. The Bible constantly refers to " marital unfaithfulness" as the only acceptable motive for divorce. People assume that means sexual unfaithfulness.. but, does it actually say that anywhere? I don't think so. To me, "marital unfaithfulness" means that the marital covenant has been broken in some form. My husband was unfaithful to me... he hit me, abused me emotionally, forced me to live in fear so I would be submissive... there is NOTHING remotely righteous or Godly about any of that.

D.L. Moody put it very plainly, "A man ought to live so that everybody knows he is a Christian… and most of all, his family ought to know.”

It doesn't matter what your family looks like on the outside, to other people... what matters is what's happening when the doors are closed and window shades are drawn.

But, now onto the good things. Going through all of this helped me to learn what a good marriage is really made of. When I finally met the right man, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was it. We've been together 6 years now and I'm still excited about what our future holds. We laugh ALL THE TIME, we never argue, we encourage each other, we just flat out love each other... and it's awesome.

All the pain I experienced in the first marriage helped to make this one better than I ever imagined it could be. I don't regret anything I went through (I'd never want to relive it either..). I'm stronger now because I know who I am. I was forced to find myself after the divorce. I promised myself I'd never be a victim again... that I wouldn't be naive again... and that I'd listen to my parents when they tell me not to marry someone.. (another helpful hint: always listen to friends and family when it comes to your significant other.. hindsight is ALWAYS 20/20).

Most importantly... don't worry about what other people say... you need to take care of yourself. Keep your eyes open, look to heaven and be aware of your situation, whether it's good or bad. Living in ignorance (blissful or otherwise) has never done anybody any good. And finally, pray. When nothing else is giving you the answers you need, pray. It really should be the first thing you do. God always hears you when you cry out to Him, however unconventional your prayers may be. He wants you happy and excited about life. You deserve it.

Supporting Scriptures:

Genesis 18:19 "For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

Proverbs 11:29 "He who brings trouble on his family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise."

Matthew 5:31-32 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.”

1 Corinthians 7:15 "But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace."

Colossians 3:18-21  "Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

You Can't Afford to be Hopeless

My ultimate hope in life is to be a mother.

Four years ago my new husband and I decided we were going to try for a baby. So we did.

And we failed. And we failed. And we failed.

After months of trying and failing, my body began a mutiny. My menstrual cycle was not a cycle at all, but more like a sporadic onslaught of unpredictable absence, and then unwanted, never ending pain. For months I’d go with no period at all. Then I’d have it for 4 weeks accompanied by the most excruciating pain I could imagine… as if someone was stabbing my ovaries with a serrated steak knife.

I finally called the doctor. I was diagnosed with Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Basically, my ovaries were filled with innumerable tiny cysts that prevented my ovaries from producing any eggs. It accounted for the extreme pain I was experiencing, as well as numerous other physical side effects such as weight gain.

The typical treatment (according to my doctor) is treatment for Diabetes, because in most cases, the patient is obese and this is the cause of the syndrome. Obviously, this wasn’t my case. The second line of attack would be birth control. I found out at 19 years old that I was allergic to birth control, so that wasn’t an option. We chose to treat it with Clomid, an oral anti-estrogen medication that would kick start my ovaries into producing eggs.

After about 6 months, it worked. Let me remind you that there is no “cure” for PCOS. Only treatments.

Anyway, I found out January 10th of 2009 that I was pregnant.

Three days later I was in the hospital. Pain beyond anything I ever thought I’d have to endure. Hearing words I never thought I’d hear.

“You must abort, you have no other option.”

My baby was ectopic. The Clomid had forced the cysts to burst and caused scar tissue to build up inside my fallopian tubes. My baby never made it to where it should have and it was killing me, literally. After being poked and prodded, scanned and tested for hours upon hours, the doctors said they thought the embryo was small enough to not have to operate, but they couldn’t be sure.

The “treatment” I was given was chemo. I was told that chemo kills rapidly growing cells, such as cancer, and that an embryo was the same thing. They called my baby a cancer, gave me a shot, and sent me home after informing me that there is a 90% chance that my next pregnancy would be ectopic, as well.

I spent the next 5 days laying on the couch, purging what the doctor’s called a cancer, and asking my murdered child to forgive me

I was hopeless. 

The guilt I felt was that I chose my own life over my baby’s. I know… I know… that there was no way to save the baby. That doesn’t change how I felt, though. I was forced to do something I believe to be a sin.

I let go of the dream I had of being a mother. I forced the hand of God by taking fertility drugs, forced my body to get pregnant when it wasn’t supposed to be, and I suffered because of it. I stopped having faith and took matters into my own hands.

I decided to go back to school, focus on a career, and just accept that I would be an aunt and nothing more.

It wasn’t until last March that everything changed. I attended a women’s weekend for church that was full of ministry and fellowship. I cried more that weekend than I had in my life. I got real with myself, stopped denying that I was afraid, forgave myself for killing my child and grabbed onto hope again. I had an honest conversation with my mother Saturday night. I told her everything I was afraid of and why I wouldn’t admit I wanted to have another baby.

The next morning was our last session and I was filled with hope. Right before the end, Pastor Stephanie called me to the front and spoke about all the things I had told my mom in confidence the night before. She spoke of my healing. I cried, I went home, I told my husband and we prayed together.

4 months later I went to the doctor… the PCOS had vanished. She said there was no trace of cysts in my ovaries anymore, that it had simply disappeared. She told me to start trying to get pregnant anytime I wanted. My cycle was back to normal, the pain was back to normal, everything was and is as it should be.

I praised God for my healing. I still do, every day. It was a miracle and I’ll never forget or deny that.

I still have some obstacles to overcome first… some other physical obstacles that I’m dealing with, but my hope is so strong. I no longer say “if I get pregnant”, but “when I’m a mom”.

I believe that God took my baby 3 years ago because it simply wasn’t time. I had been on a medication at the time that my doctor believed to be safe for pregnancy. In the 3 years since it has been discovered that it’s actually extremely harmful to unborn children. I’m now off said medication and doing awesome without it. I’d like to believe that there was a reason for what happened. I do not believe that I would have had to go through all of that pain for no reason.

Anyway, the 3 years I was in despair over not being a mother were the worst of my life. Having no hope is the worst condition to be in EVER. I never want to be hopeless. I never want to give up and let go of my dreams. I shouldn’t have to. Without hope, we have no faith. The two go hand in hand, so, of course, that’s exactly where the enemy wants us to be… hopeless, apathetic, complacent. Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hope for it, then believe it.

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m hoping, believing and waiting on the Lord. When the time is right, I’ll have my baby, I’ll be a mother and I’ll praise God for all of it. 1 Chronicles 16:8 “Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the people.” Hoping, believing, praising. That’s all I need to do.

It's so important not to let go of hope, of anticipation for what comes next, of the excitement you feel when you consider your dreams.  Without the hope of something, faith has nothing to work for. Whatever storm you're going through, it will end.  These things don't last forever.  So keep hoping and looking forward to the good that is ahead. 

We should always have hope for our future.

Supporting Scriptures

Psalm 94:19 "When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer."

Isaiah 40:31 "But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

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 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."

Romans 8:28 "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them."

Romans 15:13 "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."

2 Corinthians 4:16-18  "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

Hebrews 11:1  "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

Revelation 21:4   "He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever."