Keeper of His Home

by Chelsea McCafferty

Be Grateful for Those Babies!

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As a woman who suffers from secondary infertility (meaning I was able to have one child but have not been able to conceive since), I know that there are certain things that I see or hear that accentuate my pain and trigger negative emotions. It’s difficult. You see beautiful babies being born all around you. You have friends that are expecting. You see sweet little ones on television and in the supermarkets. You get to bring meals to new mommies and see the utter joy of being a mother. Then you return home and are faced with the pain of barrenness…the empty aching pain that only those who have experienced it can fully understand.

Before I was able to give birth to my miracle daughter, I had a much harder time being around pregnant women, attending baby showers or seeing pictures of brand new babies. It’s been almost 6 years since I had my girl, and my failure to conceive definitely brings me to pain quite often. I strive to be content and accept the Lord’s plan in it all. I know He is good and His gifts are perfect in His perfect timing. I am so blessed to have my daughter and never fail to give thanks for her. Still, I long for another child. It’s human emotion.

As I look around, I see women who are able to conceive and bring forth precious blessing after blessing. I like to joke that my circle of friends and church tends to be fertile ground. Baby after baby. It’s awesome. It’s beautiful. And it hurts. It’s a constant painful reminder. I want to be perfectly clear that I rejoice with everyone of these women at every birth. I’m so happy for them; I truly am. At the same time, I fight back the tears.

There is something I want to say to these lovely women. There’s an encouragement I have for them that can only come from a woman with infertility. My sisters, be grateful for those babies. Celebrate those babies. Don’t take it for granted. I know you are grateful for these blessings and I know you thank God for them, but take it from a woman like me, having children is not a right but a privilege that the Lord God blesses you with. For those of you who conceive easily, be grateful. Thank God for that. You are soooooo blessed! Women like me only dream of being able to have babies. I want to encourage you to feel that blessing deeper and to thank the Lord God every time you hold that sweet baby to your chest, What an amazing honor you have to be able to experience motherhood in this way. God bless you!

My sisters, I also want to encourage you to do three things for those ladies in your life who struggle with infertility…

  1. Pray for them. Pray for hurting hearts and the pain they are experiencing. Pray for open wombs and fertility. Pray for their marriages, which are sometimes strained in the hurt of infertility. Pray for these women to feel whole and valuable and important. Pray for them to know peace.
  2. Be sensitive. Be aware of the situation and try to be an encouragement. Avoid saying things that may bring more pain, if you can. Maybe pray about how best to minister to your friend in regards to the infertility. Guard your words and allow the Lord to lead.
  3. Don’t act like motherhood is a right that every woman has. That’s just not the case. Some women will never be able to conceive. Some will have miracle blessings. Either way, acting like conception, pregnancy and motherhood are just regular parts of life, instead of the absolute miraculous blessing they are, is something we pick up on. It hurts. Remember to be grateful for those babies.

Life is full of pain and struggles. Infertility is awful. It can make a woman feel alone, worthless, incomplete, broken and excluded. Last night I had a dream I was pregnant with a baby boy. I was at the doctor’s office having an ultrasound. The pain that I have to deal with this morning is heavy, but I do know that God is good. I know He loves me and I know He has a perfect plan. In tears I pray for my sisters who experience infertility. Praying for peace that passes understanding and is capable of ministering to the brokenhearted.

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Birthday Blues…Just Being Real

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(Pic: Me on my 4th birthday I believe)

Another Christmas has come and gone, which includes as always the passing of my birthday. That’s right, I was born on December 23rd, a mere two days before Christmas. While there are always many jokes and fun remarks about being a Christmas baby and no one remembering my birthday in the midst of Christmas celebrations, I’ve never really minded much being born around the most popular holiday. After all, this is the time of year that we Christians celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. Why would I mind sharing birthday honors with my Jesus? 🙂

So without any emotional issues about being born at Christmastime, I will admit that this year was a bit difficult for me. You see, I turned 34 this year. It’s not exactly a milestone birthday for most people. When I turned 30, I confess to being in tears half the day. The few years between then and now haven’t affected me much, but 34 has been a hard one. It has been hard because it has caused me to reflect on my life and where I am today. With New Year’s right around the corner, many people will share these moments of reflection and self-confrontation about areas in which we feel we have met our own goals and where we have missed the mark. My birthday has added intensity and a sense of urgency to the mix.

Why 34? What’s the significance of this seemingly innocent and random number? Well, it’s one year shy of 35. I can sense the puzzled look on your face as you read this and think, “so what?” It may sound silly, but I had it in my mind from the time I was young that I would have four or five children by the time I was 35. I don’t know if it was the hype I’d heard about 35 being the turning point when a woman is considered on the older side of child-bearing age or what, but that number stuck in my mind. I wanted to have my children by 35. As I sit here, listening to my precious girl playing in her room alone, I can’t help but feel the loss and defeat that infertility brings afresh. I’m so grateful and so blessed for the gift from God that my daughter is, but I still long for more children, and this birthday has been a stinging reminder that this is a door that has been closed for me.

Now I know that many women have children well into their late 30’s and early 40’s, so don’t be offended or feel the need to encourage me in this way. I understand that there is still technically “time” for children, and that the Lord may still bless us with adopted children. It’s just that I can’t help but be disappointed with those things that I have not accomplished in my 34 years. I’m not disappointed with what God has done, but only unhappy with some of the circumstances I find myself in because of my own bad choices and inadequacies.

As I read scripture I find encouragements. As I remind myself of God’s love for me, I find comfort in His affections and His grace. As I place my hope in Him, I’m able to face my struggles head on and to admit that I’m not perfect and I’m not always happy. I have joy because of the Lord, but that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle with sadness, disappointment and pain at times.

So tonight I admit that my birthday and the upcoming New Year reminds me that I’m no where near where I want to be. I admit that I have failed myself in many ways and that I do experience pain in the inability to have children. I confess that I do struggle with jealousy as I watch dear friends have one baby after another, though I greatly rejoice with them at the same time. I’m okay admitting these things because I’ve no desire to be fake or to paint a false picture of myself. Life is not all Sunday morning smiles. I’m okay with being real with you and I’m okay with you being real with me. I think that’s how we pray for each other and minister to one another.

Looking forward to 2015, I have so many things I want to change and do differently. I have so many dreams and goals I’d love accomplish. Still, I trust in the Lord that His ways are perfect, and I rest in His grace when I am weak and fail. I appreciate your prayers, dear saints, and I pray for you too, that the Lord will give you clarity, direction, wisdom and courage as you also look to the New Year that’ll be here soon. God bless!

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I Wish I Could Make Her a Sister

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This is going to be one of THOSE blogs. One of those really hard to write ones. One that really exposes the heart of an issue. Being real isn’t always easy, but in doing so we are often able to minister to and relate with others. It brings a sense of community and a feeling of understanding. It promotes compassion and gives others some insight into the trials of others which helps us to love them, support them and pray for them. So this is a REAL blog about REAL issues of life and the heart.

Tonight’s topic is especially hard though. You see, if you’ve never suffered through the pain and frustrations of infertility, you probably haven’t considered the many ways in which it affects a woman, a marriage or a family. There are so many emotions, trials and challenges. I have been experiencing one lately, as I deal with secondary infertility. (For those who don’t know, secondary infertility describes a woman who has been able to have a child but hasn’t been able to conceive or bring to term and deliver more children.)

My daughter is such a beautiful gift from God. She is five years old now and I can barely stand to see her grow up so quickly. I try to cherish every moment and every experience with her. She makes my life so special. The Lord was good to us in giving us this precious little girl, and I thank Him for her daily. I accept that she may be the only child He will give us, and that His plan is perfect, though we certainly have prayed for another miracle baby over the past five years.

While I am able to accept His will, it’s not to say it is without the occasional tear or heartbreak. A few nights ago I experienced a new kind of pain and it was for my daughter. She was playing with her little cousin and his big sister at Grammy’s house. At some point my daughter heard her big cousin referring to herself as the little one’s sister, so my daughter started to profess that she too was his sister. She was gently reminded that she isn’t the sister but rather the cousin and my brother (her uncle) went on to explain to her how special a cousin is. Still, despite their efforts to encourage her, she was heartbroken. She wasn’t a sister.

When they told me about this happening (I was at a wedding at the time), I was so sad for her. You see, we are part of a family and church family that places great importance on family and most of the families have been blessed with multiple children. In fact, many of our friends have very large families. We watch as sisters and brothers share sweet moments, hold brand new siblings, teach each other and love on one another. It’s precious and I’m so happy for those families. At the same time, I can’t help but ache for my daughter, who wants so badly to experience those moments, but can’t.

Sadness isn’t the only emotion for me. Whether or not it’s how I should feel, I’m often filled with guilt. I sometimes blame myself for not being able to make my daughter a sister. I would so love to give her that experience someday, and it’s my prayer that this will happen, but for now I’m left feeling inadequate and like a failure for not being able to make my little girl someone’s big sister. It’s a hard feeling to describe, but I’m sure other’s who have experienced similar circumstances will understand all too well.

I know that, just as I have to accept that I may never be able to mother another child, my daughter will have to accept that being someone’s sister in the traditional sense may not be God’s plan. What I will strive to remind her and assure her is that in the family of Jesus, she is a sister to many of God’s children. She will have friends who are like sisters. She will have big and little sisters in the Lord. While it may not be exactly the same, with Christ’s help it’ll be enough.

Perhaps our dreams of adopting will someday come to fruition and we’ll be able to give her siblings, but for now we will teach our daughter that God is the opener and closer of wombs. He is the one who knits families together, whether naturally or by adoption. He will give her plenty of opportunity to love others and to be loved. I pray now for my little girl’s heart, that she will have understanding in this and, even at this young age, trust the Lord. I pray also for this mommy’s heart, that I would feel the hurt when it’s needed but then move on to joy and contentment. I pray that my heart would see the opportunities all around me to use my mother’s heart to minister to others. I continue to thank God that I got the tremendous privilege of experiencing life forming and growing within me, and that I get to gaze upon my daughter’s beautiful face every day. Thank You Jesus!

Thank you readers for being willing to go deep and real with me here in this blog. If what I share touches your heart, I pray you will share the blog with your friends and stick with me here. If you have never suffered from infertility, I pray you will be able to give understanding and compassion to friends and loved ones who have or do now. I pray that, as you look upon the faces of your children, you will remember to pray for those women who are aching for children they cannot have even now. Pray for them and thank the Lord again for His blessings.

“And He (God) will make the barren woman to keep house and to be the joyful mother of children. Praise ye the Lord!” Psalm 113:9

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When a Loved One Struggles with Infertility

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photo credit: Stephan Geyer via photopin cc

There’s nothing easy about being a woman who struggles with infertility, whether it be primary or secondary. Only those who have experienced the pain of this struggle can fully understand the depth of hurt and longing that a barren woman experiences day by day, for years and years. It is impossible to comprehend her pain without having to experience it yourself, and yet so many woman have dear friends or family that are going through this struggle, and I know you want to be there for her. You should be there for her. She needs you.

The problem is, without understanding the pain, there is a chance you could say or do the wrong thing in an effort to bring comfort. As a woman who struggled with primary infertility and now secondary, I could share many stories of times when friends made careless comments or had advice to give that was anything but what I needed to hear at the moment. It wasn’t their fault. They were trying to help. They didn’t know the pain they were causing or tears I fought back. They had all the right intentions, but without having experienced infertility, one just doesn’t comprehend which comments/actions would be comforting and which would only add to the pain. As a help, here are a few ways you can minister to a loved one who struggles with infertility:

1. Pray. Pray for your friend as often as you can and with a fervent spirit. Prayer is powerful. We acknowledge that it is the Lord who opens and closes wombs. Pray for your friend’s womb to be opened. Pray boldly. Pray also for her aching heart and for her to be filled with comfort and peace. Pray that she will be able to accept God’s will, whatever it may be. Pray often and feel free to tell your friend that you are praying for her to conceive and praying for her comfort.

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 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.” James 5:13-14

2. Don’t pretend it isn’t an issue. Infertility is a big deal. If you have a friend who wants a child but hasn’t been able to conceive, you can bet that this is something that she thinks about pretty much every day of her life. It is a very big deal to her. Minimizing it or pretending it doesn’t exist does not help her. While it isn’t something you want to bring up all the time, when in private it’s good to ask her how she is doing in coping with infertility. She may be needing to talk about it but feeling too rotten to bring it up herself. Women with infertility sometimes feel ashamed, especially in the Christian community. It makes her feel that she is somehow failing as a woman. This might keep her from opening up to a friend even though she really needs to talk it through. Give her that opportunity and remind her that you are thinking of her and that you care.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

3. Censor your tongue from flippant comments. Oh, the flippant comments that I’ve heard! You know, we all put our foot in our mouths sometimes. We are human. We are going to make mistakes. I would just encourage you to be especially cautious around your infertile friend. Try not to make comments like, “You just don’t get what a pain it is to be pregnant,” or “When are you going to get pregnant already?” or “Maybe you’re just not ready to be a mom.” These are only a few common ones. During my primary infertility phase, I had friends and family members tell me that maybe I should take advice on how to get pregnant from this young, unmarried girl who kept having babies. I was told that I was “lucky” I didn’t have to be pregnant. When I was sharing about the idea of adoption, I had a friend tell me “but there’s nothing in the world like carrying a baby in your womb.” Ouch. She’ll never know the tears I cried over that one comment. As Christians, we are to put the feelings and concerns of others ahead of our own liberty. You have the freedom to say flippant and thoughtless comments all day long if you want, but I urge you to put on compassion and be sensitive and thoughtful when it comes to speaking with a woman with fertility issues.

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18

4. Don’t treat her like less of a wife, woman or sister in the Lord. You may not even recognize that you do it, but I can tell you from experience that woman without children are often treated differently in the church. I was a married woman, not young by any means, and yet people talked to me as if I was a teenager a lot of the time. Women who were younger than me, but who had babies, were treated as mature woman, whereas I felt they treated me differently. The focus was forever on the women having babies. They were building “families” but me and my husband were viewed as a “couple” – not a “family.” Sometimes I felt that people were judging me, or thought that I wasn’t conceiving because I had done something wrong. Some Christians view infertility that way, and perhaps sometimes it is a judgment from the Lord, but we know that it isn’t always that way. I believe God uses infertility to bring about His plans and also to bring Himself glory. Sometimes I believe He closes wombs so that people will look after the orphans of this world. He knows the plans He has for us. Don’t make your friend feel like less of a woman because she cannot conceive. Don’t make her family and less of a family. She and her husband are their family.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9

5. Try not to talk about your pregnancy/children constantly when she’s around. Now this is a tricky one. When I was going through primary infertility, it was so incredibly difficult for me to be around pregnant women or women with babies. It just hurt me inside to see them and hear about the joys of pregnancy that I couldn’t experience. I worked hard to fight against my pain and hold it back so that I could rejoice with my friends who were having babies. I fought back tears at baby showers and, with the power of the Holy Spirit, was able to celebrate with my loved ones. The truth is, I was happy for them. I was excited for them. I wanted to be there for them. I was just so overcome with pain that it was very difficult. While you should talk about your pregnancy and children, just be mindful about how much you talk about it with your friend who struggles in this area. Be discerning about when you need to change the subject. Limit your own liberty for the sake of your hurting friend. Don’t minimize the joy and wonder of carrying and birthing babies, but be sensitive to the heart of your friend who is longing so desperately to experience it too. Be wise and be kind.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another…” Colossians 3:12

6. Walk through the journey with her and be supportive. Infertility is a journey. It starts with a couple who want a child, but for some reason cannot conceive. It starts with years of waiting and wondering and worrying. It usually ends up in a doctor’s office with either an explanation or sometimes no answers at all. From there the couple must make decisions about how to go forward…will it be infertility treatment, adoption or the end of the road? Infertility is a journey, and each step can be painful and difficult. Be there for your friend who is going through it. Pray for her. Hold her hand. Encourage her. Help any way you can. Try not to judge her decisions if you don’t agree with them. Try not to minimize the weight of the choices before her and her husband. At the end of the journey, they may end up with a child, or they may not. Either way, be a supportive and loving friend throughout the journey.

A friend loves at all times..” Proverbs 17:17a

7. Give her hope from the Bible. I believe fully that the Lord God of the Bible is the only opener and closer of wombs. He makes that decision. A woman can use birth control and still conceive if God wills, or a young, healthy woman can be stopped from conceiving by the hand of God. He is sovereign. If the God of the Bible is the opener of wombs, then it is from His Word that our hope and comfort comes. When your friend needs hope, give her the Word. When she needs comfort, encourage her with scripture. When she is angry, sooth her with God’s Word. God does not promise that all Christian women will bear children naturally, but He does promise that a woman will be able to mother children….sometimes that is through adoption, working with kids, etc. Here is a great verse for bringing encouragement to sisters who struggle with infertility:

“He (God) will make the barren woman keep house and be the joyful mother of children; praise ye the Lord!” Psalm 113:9

I hope this was a help to you in how to minister to your loved ones who have fertility issues. Please feel free to share this article so that others can glean from it as well. There is nothing easy about infertility, but the care and love of a good friend goes a long way in bringing comfort in those difficult times. God bless!

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Infertility – My Story

When I got married, I had no idea I would struggle to conceive. I figured I would try for a few months and be able to have a baby without a long delay. I did not foresee the struggle and pain that the next four years would bring, nor anticipate the amazing work of the Lord through this trial in my life. I share this story now to bring hope, encouragement and comfort to my sisters who have experienced, or are even now experiencing the pain of infertility.

My husband and I had no plans of waiting to have a child when we were married. We wanted to get a family started right away. I had dreamed of a large family with five plus kids. We never prevented pregnancy in any way. Three months passed and nothing. I wasn’t too concerned, reading online that it took healthy when up to a year to conceive at times. We were living in Scotland at the time and I figured the stress of moving to a new country may be putting my body on hold.

As time went on, I struggled with watching friend after friend conceive and deliver precious babies, while for me it wasn’t happening. My husband and I prayed and tried to leave our concerns in the hands of the Lord. As a woman I found the struggle to be particular painful because there were so many shades of emotion. I struggled with impatience, sadness, longing, jealousy….I confess these are not attractive or righteous attitudes. I prayed. Released the pain to God. After a time it would return like a haunting spirit.

For years the pain and fear built upon itself until the point came when I realized the seriousness of what was going on. A dear friend of mine announced she was pregnant with her second child. I had been trying to conceive since before she was pregnant with the first. Suddenly I was no longer a healthy woman being impatient….I was a woman struggling with infertility. I cried more tears during that time than at any other time in my life. I asked God why He had excluded me from the blessing of being a mother when it was all that I wanted. I begged Him for my womb to be open. I cried out in anger when His answer wasn’t an immediate “yes”.

During this time I found it very difficult to be around my pregnant friends. I could hardly handle a baby shower. I grew bitter and was so emotionally tender. I was highly affected by every flippant comment made by people telling me I should have a baby or asking me why we were waiting. We moved back to the US and I found myself at a church that was highly “fertile” ground, as it were. Women were having babies nearly every month and yet I sat by, an incomplete and defective woman in my own estimation. I felt that people looked down on me, that they assumed I was infertile because of my own failure or sin, and that they treated me like a child because I couldn’t to conceive. Some of this was the wayward imaginations of my own mind, and some of it had some merit, I will say.

I hit rock bottom and came to the point when I had to really give it all over to the Lord to be able to function. He was faithful to take my burden. While I still struggled with the pain, God went through it with me and gave me comfort.

Then, four years into my infertility….

I was at a woman’s Wednesday night Bible study and we came across a verse Psalm 113:9. “He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD!” The verse, meant to encourage, broke my heart. I wept to my sisters and allowed them to minister to me. Then at church on Sunday, my pastor read the same Psalm again. I was surprised to hear it again and filled with emotion. Tuesday morning I found out I was pregnant.

The realization of what God had done hit me full force. I knew there was no coincidence. He had given me that verse and confirmed it to prove that it was Him and Him alone who opened my womb. He is the opener and closer of wombs and the only Creator of life! My first feelings weren’t as much of joy as they were of fear. Cramping had led me to the pregnancy test in the first place, so I feared I was miscarrying. Praise the Lord that it wasn’t so and I my daughter, Tabitha, was born a little over 7 months later.

If you struggle with infertility and are reading this, the victory at the end of my story may cause you the same pain that I experienced at hearing of the pregnancies of friends. I’m sorry for this and pray that you will be comforted as I was. My prayer in sharing it is that it will bring you hope and comfort. You are not defective or unworthy of being a mother. God has reasons above our understanding for why He gives children to some and withholds from others. I did nothing to earn my daughter. God had a plan and a time.

Since my daughter’s birth I have again been unable to conceive, and it has been over four years. Again, my husband and I have not tried to prevent pregnancy, so I would now be considered as having secondary infertility. Of course, these words are just terms to define your current state. God is as much in control now as He was when He gave me my daughter. He could give me another child, or He could say no. While I would love to have more children, I believe wholeheartedly that God’s purpose and plan is what’s best. Perhaps He will allow my husband and I to adopt? We are open to His leading.

I wrap this testimony up by sharing three encouragements:

1. God is sovereign and He is the one who opens and closes wombs. Our hope is in the Lord. Just like Hannah petitioning the Lord for a child, we cry out to Him and receive from Him what He wills. We must trust Him and we need to allow His comfort to minister to us and bring us peace and contentment.

2. If you are struggling with infertility, please know that you are not defective or incomplete as a woman. You are complete in Christ. In Christ all fullness dwells and you are in Christ my sister. You lack nothing. God may be allowing you to go through this trial for a purpose that is far beyond what we can see or imagine. I pray fervently that the Lord will open your womb if it be His will. I pray even more so that, no matter what He chooses to do, that you would receive a flood of comfort from the Throne of Grace.

3. If you have a friend who is barren, I pray that you will seek to understand and be sensitive to what a painful struggle she is likely to be going through. Guard her heart by being cautious of your words. Don’t make light of it or joke. I guarantee that, while she may smile on the outside, she is weeping on the inside. Pray for her. Remember her.

For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13

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