Carry Camp Retreat – Part 1

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Over the next few posts I’ll be sharing about my experience at the Carry Camp Retreat, a retreat for women dealing with infertility. So today is part 1, which is day 1 of the retreat.

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It started on a Friday evening, and since it was outside Nashville, TN, I was able to drive there. It was only a four hour drive, which wasn’t bad at all. And the drive was just beautiful, just a sweet reminder of the majesty of God’s creation, all the mountains, hills, water, just everything.

I totally forgot that there was an hour time difference so I got there like an hour early, which for an introvert like me who was already incredibly nervous, showing up early was like the worst thing that could happen for me.

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Thankfully, there was already a couple of women who got there early, as well. They were all hanging out on the porch in the rocking chairs, waiting for the leaders to get back from running some errands in town.

Shortly after they returned, we helped one of the leaders put together the name tags. They were super creative. Since I was the last person to register, my name tag wasn’t created yet, so they had to quickly create it. After we were finished with that task, we were finally able to enter the cabin.

This cabin had four huge rooms with multiple beds in each room. Four of the women were on the left side of the cabin upstairs, and we were the only ones in this area, and were told that it was the nicest room of all, and boy were they right. Here’s some pictures of it.

Myself and several of the women made our way to one of the living room areas while we awaited dinner. We decided to go around the room and start sharing our infertility journeys, our family and where we were from. When it came to my turn, I shared my entire journey (pelvic condition, endometriosis and PCOS) and after I shared one of my roommates said, “Wow, you’re so brave.

Those words really threw me off. Because it was the second time in like a month, that I had heard that. About a month earlier, one of the women at my support group heard that after she heard about my pelvic condition and what I was going to have to do to work through that. Both times, I was thinking, “wait a second, you must be thinking of someone else. I’m not brave. In fact, I feel weak. I hide, I’m timid, I’m an introvert. Surely that can’t be me.” But then I’m hearing this again, and I know this can’t be a coincidence.

Shortly after that we transition to the kitchen/dining area for dinner. Here’s some pictures of what this beautiful area looked like.

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Beautiful right? Those decorations were done by hand by one of the leaders. She’s super talented So these two leaders got up and did a short introduction and then prayer over our event and dinner. I don’t remember most of what was said in that sweet prayer, but I do know I heard the word “brave” again. And I’m thinking, seriously? Brave again? Lord, what are you doing?

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After they were done praying, they talked about how they (the three leaders) randomly picked up various mugs, and we each got to pick one and take it home. So I got up and went to the table where all the mugs were held. The second mug was the one you see here (ignore the broken piece on the back of the mug, that’s a story for another day). Yes, that’s right “brave” again. I knew this cup was meant for me.

Are you sensing a theme here? I sure was. Brave was in my face, and the weekend had just barely begun. What was He up to?

We ate dinner, and I was able to sit with a few of the attendees and a few of the leaders. I enjoyed the conversation, and the food was amazing! They told us that we had a slip of paper under our plate that we needed to bring with us after dinner when we moved into the next room. Mine said, “Who’s your favorite Bible character and why?”. That was an easy one for me. It was Joseph. His story of what the enemy meant for evil, God turned around for good. A story of hope, visions, dreams and God’s faithfulness after all he went through.

Anyways, we move into the main living room and we went around the room sharing a short version of our infertility story, plus answering the question on our paper from dinner. It was both encouraging and heart wrenching. Heart wrenching to hear all the women and their stories, their heartbreak and everything they’ve gone through. After all, you don’t want anyone to have to go through this journey. But it was also so encouraging, I wasn’t alone, and so many women completely understand what I’ve been going through.

IMG_1231.JPGAfter this we go outside and are around a camp fire. We start this time with prayer and confessing how we have been feeling and repenting for any things we needed to. Wow. Such an impactful moment. Then one of the women who was there for the weekend to lead us in worship, let us in several worship songs around the campfire. What a neat way to worship, out in the midst of God’s creation. It truly was an amazing experience. For those of us that wanted to we could hang out and chat, so I did that for about 30 minutes before heading up to bed.

Stay tuned for day 2 of the retreat.

 

God’s Work Behind the Scenes

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In the midst of heartache and wondering what God is doing and when He will deliver, it always amazes me how He loves to show out and show up. Our God is a good, good Father.

You may remember in last weeks post how I was struggling after finding out about a friends pregnancy. Well fast forward to the other day when I had a dream that I found out I was pregnant and in this dream I was so very excited and went around telling everyone I ran into that I was pregnant. After all, I had waited so long for this. Then I woke up, and reality set in. That was just a dream. And my emotions are set off again because I’m heartbroken that was just a dream. Sigh…

So I start thinking that often times when I have dreams related to this journey towards motherhood God is usually trying to show me something. So I began praying and asking for His revelation. And He showed me that finding out I was pregnant is a part of my story and it will come to pass for me!!! I was so beyond blown away. I’ve had dreams of my children, but it’s been so long and I never knew how these children would come to me. So this was a new and fresh revelation.

At work yesterday, a friend came by and told me that the Lord has put me on her heart to pray for me. So she’s been praying for me the last several months. And God told her to come pray over me, so she came to see me.

I believe a baby is coming for you.

Those were the words she said right before she prayed over me. And her prayers were amazing. She kept saying how brave I was for putting my story out there and helping other women in this journey. I was in tears by the time she was done, just so in awe.

Then this morning I woke up to a friend messaging me. Also telling me she has been praying for me. She goes on to share how she understands this journey I’m on, she prays that I will have strength to carry the mantle of the ministry I’m leading and that I’m an inspiration to so many. I just begin crying happy tears. The timing of this message after everything else is just so amazing.

God showed me the work He was doing behind the scenes. Giving me dreams about my story, assigning women to pray for me, my future child and my ministry. He has big things coming even when I can’t see them happening before my eyes.

What things could God be working behind the scenes for you?

Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.      – Psalm 40:3

The 5 “W” ?’s

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Have you been in a circumstance in your life that leaves you questioning and you ask the 5 W’s? I know I sure have. For a long time, I thought I was the only one who did this. Or, more recently, I thought I was done with this stage in my life. I’m brave, I trust Him, I will conquer, so no more need for these questions, right?? Right??
Ha! Who was I kidding?!?!

It was two weeks ago, and a good friend respectfully and unexpectedly told me she was pregnant. Needless to say, I was shocked!! Here I was in the middle of a conversation with a friend who knew my story, so she knew and understood that this would be hard news for me because of infertility. And I’m seriously trying as hard as I can to hold back tears.

Here’s my friend knowing that this news was hard, and was nervous about telling me because as my friend she truly cared about my pain and wanted to honor me in how she delivered this news. And as she’s telling me this news, in the midst of my shock, all I can think about is that God had shown me in the past that I needed to be very careful in how I responded to this news with others.

He showed me that as hard as it is for me to hear this news, it’s either just as hard or pretty darn close to be the friend or family member on the other side delivering the news. They desperately don’t want to hurt me, but want my joy for them. So knowing that, holding back the tears, I say, “I’m so happy for you!! That’s great news.” And hear me when I say this, if you’re reading this and you haven’t dealt with infertility, know that we truly are happy for you or those we care about and their joy of pregnancy. We are just so sad for us, sad that again another person we care about is pregnant and we still aren’t, sad that it seems this will never happen for us, just sad.

So back to my story, we go on and talk for a few more minutes about her pregnancy, and I couldn’t tell you now what we talked about because it’s all a blur now. She ends up leaving. And I immediately fall apart. Like the hardest tears I’ve cried in a long time, and they last for hours. Tears carry into my entire weekend. I didn’t know that a pregnancy announcement even still set me off. I thought I was past this. So mostly, I’m irritated and frustrated that this is even an issue for me. Have I started all over in this journey of waiting?

And then my mind starts wondering, again. And the 5 W’s begin. Who else around me will get pregnant before I finally get to start my family? What in the world is going on with my life? Why am I still waiting? When will I experience pregnancy and starting my family and when will my wait end? Where am I even headed?

It had me feeling so worn in the midst of this wait. Have you felt that way in a wait? Just worn from it all? (Before I continue on, I highly recommend the song Worn, by Tenth Avenue North. Check the video of the song out here.)

Then that Monday evening I was attending my support group that I lead. (Get more info about my group here.) And we were watching this video by Wendy Pope from her Wait & See study. The video can be found here. She references Psalm 77 and a few of the verses from that scripture.

First she directs you to look at the following verses:

7 “Will the Lord reject forever?
    Will he never show his favor again?
Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
    Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
    Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

She reminds you to look at the Psalmist here, he was asking some of those same questions. He had doubts, he had impatience in the wait, he felt forgotten and rejected. I don’t know about you, but for me, that was comforting. If the Psalmist was feeling that way, surely its understandable that I would, too, right?

She goes on to these few verses:

10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out
his right hand.
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”

13 “Your ways, God, are holy.
    What god is as great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
    you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
    the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.”

Do you see what the Psalmist is doing here? He’s remembering. What exactly is He remembering? He’s remembering who God is, and how God has been faithful. Wow. In the midst of this wait, instead of focusing on the 5 W’s, it’s time to start focusing on how God has been faithful.

I dare you to pull out a pen and paper and write down 3 things or areas where you’ve seen God faithful in your own life. It’s time to remember.

Brave

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2015-04-Banner_BeingBrave-620x330What does it mean to be brave? It’s a term we hear often in this day and age. But what does it really mean? Does it mean you have to be a superhero or accomplish really big things? Can anyone be brave?

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines brave this way…

having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty :  having or showing courage brave soldier brave smile

I asked many of my friends and family what being brave looked like to them and this was some of their feedback:

facing your fears boldly no matter how scared you are.

stepping out of what makes you comfortable even when you don’t feel like it.

choosing to look confidently toward the future even though I don’t know what it holds. And I choose to give my all event though I may fail.

doing what you hear God telling you to do even if it is against the grain, is at cost or doesn’t make sense.

doing things or going through obstacles that you might not like but you have to. It’s going places that no one else is daring to go. Sometimes it means being quiet and letting God tell you what you really need to do and to listen and obey.

For me, being brave means that I trust fully in Him to lead me through everything, even the very scary and uncertain things.

To me, brave is…the woman who raises her child alone, the couple who doesn’t know how there marriage will make it but doesn’t give up, the person terrified of speaking in front of people but makes that their norm, the woman that pushes forward in the midst of infertility and doesn’t give up, the husband that doesn’t know how to provide for his family but works the uncomfortable jobs to put food on the table, the person with the cancer diagnosis but chooses to trust in the healing power of God…these and so much more are the brave individuals I see all around me.

Does this change your view of bravery?

I never once thought of myself as brave. Being introverted and struggling with infertility made me feel very weak. A weak person couldn’t be brave, could they? And then all of a sudden I heard “You are brave.” I heard this not just once but several times, from several women. And it confused me and challenged me. How could I be brave? God, are you trying to tell me something here? Then He said, “You are brave.” And over the course of 30 minutes of praying and seeking, He showed me that He had made me brave, even if I didn’t think or feel like I was. That He would continue equipping me to be brave. And slowly I began to see myself in that light. And He began to challenge me to embrace the bravery He instilled in me.

Will you do the same?

Why???

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why meWhy???? It seems to be the word that I have uttered more than anything this year. Why? Why me? Why now? Why here? Why am I still here? Why has this not ended? Why, why, why?!?!?

I’m sure I’m not the only one that has felt this way. But his year has been one of the most difficult times in my life in a long time. From serious family illnesses to financial distress to fear of losing income to the infertility journey continuing to my own personal sickness to feeling alone, thinking no one could possibly understand what I’m going through, it seems to never end. Every time I turn around, it seems there is yet another thing to add to the plate of my trials, tragedies and sadness.

I have been crying all the time, unable to shut the tears off. I haven’t wanted to get out of bed. I haven’t wanted to pray or here about Him. I haven’t wanted to hear the typical “God has a plan” or “it will happen in His timing” christianese words that so many recite. I have never felt so stuck and alone in my pain as I do now.

I’m told the only way to get through this is to do the one thing I don’t want to do. Talk to Him, pray, tell Him how I really feel. Tell Him? How do I tell Him, when I’m not even sure I can collect my own thoughts or even find the words? How do I tell the creator of the universe that this sucks?!? It’s hard to break through the barrier of feeling like I can’t truly be honest with Him because of who He is. But break through I must, somehow….

If you don’t know this about me, I am not a big reader. I occasionally will read a few chapters in a book and then put the book down, never to return to it. However, tonight I felt led by the Lord to pick up the book, The Shack, by William P Young and read where I left off at chapter 6. This is the only book that I have ever cried while reading. The author so perfectly expresses the feelings, love, sadness and more that I get drawn in to what’s being conveyed. So there are a few things that really ministered to me, that I thought I would share.

But first, a little explanation of this fictional book…Mack’s very young daughter has died. And this is his journey to discovering who he is, who God is and how he could possibly go on from here. It’s the conversations between Mack and the different aspects of the Trinity. This particular conversations I’ll share are between Mack and Father God.

“if you couldn’t take care of Missy, how can I trust you to take care of me?” There, he’d said it–the question that had tormented him every day of The Great Sadness. Mack felt his face flush angry red as he stared at what he now considered to be some odd characterization of God, and he realized his hands were knotted into fists.

“Mack, I’m so sorry.” Tears began to trail down her cheeks. “I know what a great gulf this has put between us. I know you don’t understand this yet, but I am especially fond of Missy, and you too.”

…He wanted to believe her and slowly some of his rage began to subside.

“That’s why you’re here, Mack,” she continued. “I want to heal the wound that has grown inside of you, and between us.”

…”I think I’d like that,” he admitted, “but I don’t see how…”

The Shack, William P Young, Chapter 6

I understand exactly how Mack is feeling at this point. Where have you been, God? I’ve been over here drowning. Where were you when A & B happened? If you really cared, would this have happened?

But then, when you look closely at this passage, you see that Father God was tearing up/crying at the pain that Mack is going through. Could this be true? Does God truly care? Does He cry when I’m hurting? Does He feel my pain? It’s something I had never considered before.

I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a Pastor at my church last year as I shared my infertility journey and my heartbreak over it. The Lord spoke to her and told her to tell me: I am for you. Not only that, but I am for you having a child. I had never considered that he was for me having a child. After all,i am for you He’s allowed this to be such a long and hard journey. So surely, if he’s allowing it, I’m not supposed to have a child, and He doesn’t really care. I began to doubt what He had told me and shown me several times, the child I KNOW I will have. I have to allow myself to remember He is for me.

I also totally relate to “I’m not sure how…” statement. I have to remember that my tears mean that I will be comforted. He will comfort me, He will meet me where I am. I amy not understand the why or the when, but I know that He will.

He. is. for. me.

He. cares. about. my. pain.

“Mackenzie, I know that your heart is full of pain and anger and a lot of confusion. Together, you and I, we’ll get around to some of that while you’re here. But I also want you to know that there is more going on than you could imagine or understand, even if I told you. As much as you are able, rest in what trust you have in me, no matter how small, okay?

– The Shack, William P Young, Chapter 6

So God is not only for me and cares about my pain, but he knows my pain. He can sense and feel my pain. His heart is breaking to witness my heart breaking. He wants to help me deal with my pain and get through it. He hasn’t left me in the midst of it. He wants to deliver me through the pain.

I’m reminded of a passage of scripture:

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!  – Ephesians 3:20 (MSG)I-am-not-alone

He’s showing us that there’s so much more going on that we can’t see. He can see it. And He knows that He can deliver me through it so that what I’m praying for will be event bigger than I’ve imagined. He’ll do way more than I’m expecting. He’s taking our paper and crayons into a masterpiece, because He only knows to create bigger and better!

He’ll. do. more. than. I. can. imagine.

I don’t have this all figured out, and I’m still dealing with a lot of pain and sadness. I know that He’s only beginning to scratch at the surface of my heart. But I can’t wait to see how He’ll amaze me through it. He truly is faithful and loves us more than we can fathom.

To close this out, I got a glimpse of a post I wrote four years ago, as I was struggling with some big trials. So I’d like to share it with you.

As I think about it…that’s not the only aspect of how His timing is perfect. I had probably had one of the worst years of my life. My grandmother passed away, my husband lost his job, my mom had surgery, my stepmother passed away, and my husband had neck surgery. I seriously was at the point…what else could Satan possibly throw at me?? Really??? Come on!!!! I was beginning to doubt myself, and I thought God had stopped intervening in my life? You’re a healer? Really? Look at all that had happened over the past year…so much related to healing. I know you are God, I know you heal…but why was no one in my circle getting that advantage of you? Why was all this happening? I can totally say that I don’t understand all of it. But I do know, He was always there waiting with open arms for me, no matter what the enemy threw at me. He allowed me to go through it all, and it only made me stronger, it didn’t matter what was thrown at me, My God is so much bigger! And his timing is perfect! Because after that horribly rotten year, he delivered us from our bondage!!! Why? Because He’s God, and He loves me! And apparently, He has bigger plans for me than I had for myself.

So are you doubting why He hasn’t answered you yet? We prayed for 7 years. But His timing was much more than perfect! Trust in His timing, He knows way better than we do!!!

Then this was in another post from Beth Moore’s study, Esther: It’s Tough Being a Woman:

“He who delivered you from drugs can deliver you from distraction. He who delivered you from bankruptcy can deliver you from bingeing. He who delivered you from infertility can deliver you from inconsistency. He who delivered you from the fire can deliver you from fear. Sometimes God uses the winds of a new threat to blow the dust off a past miracle that has moved from our active files into the archives. Remember, Beloved! Remember what God has done for you!”

Friend, I pray that God can use what the enemy meant to destroy me, to bring you some encouragement and understanding. Never forget: He is for you.

Blessings, Shannon

The Triplets

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For those that know me, you know how much I truly love babies & children. So you understand that when I found out that my sister-in-law, Teena was pregnant with triplets I was beyond excited! She already has one child, Mikaela Elizabeth. She is almost three and absolutely beautiful. So adding triplets to this mix was giving them quite the family!!!

The pregnancy was quite the battle. It was a high risk pregnancy from the very beginning. One thing that I wasn’t aware of….with multiple births instead of the typical 9 month pregnancy, it’s an 8 month pregnancy or at least that’s the hope.

At four months we discovered that she was having 2 girls and 1 boy. I’m sure this was something that made her husband very happy….he finally wasn’t outnumbered with women 🙂

At five months it was discovered that one of the girls was having problems. One of the other babies was stealing her nutrients. So they had to have an emergency surgery to reverse this. This was also something very high risk. Sadly, after about a month she passed away. The incredibly hard part was that Teena found out she had to deliver this baby girl that didn’t make it, but she had to wait to do so until the other babies were born.

They were also worried that she would go into early labor, they needed that babies to stay in her for at last a couple more weeks.

The good news is that they did wait. They were born on August 17th at 12:51am at 2.2 lbs. They are in the NICU and will probably be for about 2 months.  Their names are Ethan Cooper and Arya Delaney.

This is Ethan:

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This is Arya:

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Please keep my niece & nephew in your prayers for continued strength and growth.

Continued Provision

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The way God has continually provided for us in the last two and a half years has totally amazed me.

No matter how much He has provided for us, I always have seemed to doubt his provision, doubt Him. And every time, I feel like He’s nudging me, saying, “Why do you doubt Me? Haven’t I shown you my goodness, my faithfulness?”

And the truth is, yes, He has shown me His faithfulness, numerous times.

It first started with my husband losing his job over 2 years ago, which took with it 75% of our income, with us having over $40,000 in debt. I had not idea how we would make it through with out his income & the debt piling over us. God provided us over and over through that time. He got unemployment for most of it. Also during that time God miraculously provided a way for us to pay off all of our debt. I even mean our car debt. We owe no money on all of our cars. Truly a gift.

Then after him being unemployed for a year and a half , i got a promotion at work, that came along with benefits and all. This was something I had been praying for for over 2 years. God had come through!!!!

Shortly thereafter, Carl lost his unemployment, and I got scared. But then, he got a temporary job. I thought this would finally be the end of the unemployment streak. The very exhausting streak. But then that didn’t last either.

Panic seemed to sink in more now than ever before. What were we gonna do? Our savings was almost depleted and the few credit cards we had were maxed out. How were we going to pull through this? Would God really provide like he had in the past? As much as I tried to believe and have the faith, and believe in His promises…it was such a struggle.

However, he proved his faithfulness all over again. Carl got a job almost immediately. We only went one pay period with out him having a check after the temp job. I was beside myself with excitement, I couldn’t contain the happy tears.

He is truly Jehovah Jireh, the Lord who provides. How can I ever doubt that, again??