We are about to enter a New Year. And there is a temptation to treat this as a blank page, completely re-writing our stories. We want to shed all that makes us ashamed and seek after that which might make us more confident. And while it is good to start fresh and new, and I am certainly planning on doing so, how can we enter into this year while embracing where we are and how we got here?
I was asked to blog this weekend, and it ended up being the same weekend that my husband Tom was scheduled to preach. I started this post while on a retreat in July, and since it ties in to Tom’s message, I decided to edit and post it for the blog. Below is a snippet of our infertility and health journey. I pray that it helps you contemplate and feel more comfortable within your own story.
It was 2008, and we were living in Pasadena, California. Our ministry in Texas had fallen apart, and we had moved to California so Tom could attend Fuller Seminary. Everything had fallen into place with our move, but I was still bitter. Bitter that our friends back in Texas were able to carry on with their lives while we had to start from scratch. They were able to settle down and buy houses within a familiar community, while half my paycheck was going toward the rent on our tiny lopsided home on Rio Grande Drive. This wasn’t supposed to be a part of our story; our dreams had foreseen something different. I now think back fondly to our precious little house on that sunny street, but it wasn’t the story I would have written for myself.
We were walking through the mall one day, and Tom said to me, “If I can’t lose this weight, I think I should have weight loss surgery.” This irritated me, because of course he would lose the weight. He was strong and disciplined and he was excelling at his classes at Fuller. Of course he could figure out a way to lose the weight! And so I responded with something I knew would affect him in the same way his statement had affected me: “I think we should see a fertility doctor.”
It worked. Tom was sure we didn’t have fertility problems. We hadn’t been trying very long, we weren’t even really trying– we were fine. But just like he knew that weight loss would require more than diet and exercise for him, I knew we weren’t going to get pregnant easily. Yet neither of us were willing to admit that this sort of medical intervention would be part of our story.
In February of 2015, we had our daughter, Abbie, the result of a year of fertility treatments. And the next month, Tom underwent gastric bypass surgery. As he was about to go under the knife, he wasn’t concerned about the fact that most of his stomach and about a foot of his large intestine would be cut away, he was just worried that it wouldn’t work. What if this was just like all the other diets, the diets that, despite our initial optimism, only got him so far in his weight loss journey?
But 230 pounds later, Tom is now training for his second half marathon. In November, he ran the Monumental with team World Vision and actually enjoyed it. While he trained for it, we would load Abbie into the jogging stroller and go on a family jog (or GOG, as Abbie calls it). And as we jogged, I would think about how impossible this would be without the medical intervention we received. We are jogging with our daughter!
While we hope our stories will be more simplified and our miracles more instantaneous, they often aren’t. Tom and I have not entered many life stages with ease, and I am often jealous of those who seem to breeze through life, easily obtaining what we climb over mountains to find. And yet our story has made us who we are. We are very different people than we were in 2005 when we married, wiser and more refined, more hesitant to claim the answers to every problem. Our story has shaped us into more compassionate people, more attuned to the struggle and suffering around us.
Our stories never feel as refined or beautiful as those around us, but they are our story. A story meant to be lived and embraced and shared. And I want to wear my story well. I want to sit in it and know it and be comfortable in it. And I want to be able to hear other stories and receive them with joy and grace, without feeling the need to compare them to my own.
It’s often not until we embrace our story that we can find our redemption. I pray that we would all embrace our place in life and strive to do our best with the tools we’ve been given. May we begin this new year in a state of willing receptivity to all He has prepared for us, embracing both our past and the possibilities for our future.