Strength in Numbers

Strength in Numbers

We are designed for community.

I recently committed to a new gym. If anyone were to look at my gym history and record of attendance at establishments where sweat is expected, it would be determined that this was a very poor financial decision. I’m not a fan of working out.

But one day, I went out on the lake with my family and I couldn’t get back up on the boat. My arms were not strong enough to pull myself out of the water without assistance. I only managed to get back in by (very ungracefully) climbing on top of the motor and then into the back of the boat. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that relying on the motor to act as a ladder is a bad idea.

So, with new motivation, I accepted a friend’s invitation to step into a 14 day trial at her gym.

*Insert official statement that I am not getting paid to advertise anything. Hang in there guys, I have a point.*

Did I mention that I hate the gym? I mostly hate it because I’m not good at it. I also don’t know very much. All those machines look intimidating and I’m sure to hurt myself if I attempt to use any sort of weights. My first day was ROUGH.

Ya’ll, I moved my body in ways that it had never been moved before. I groaned every time I sat down, stood up, walked… my legs hurt so bad!

So why in the world did I sign up for a membership?!?

Because it felt different this time, at this gym. I wasn’t left on my own to figure out a machine. I was in a class and I was taught the movements before attempting them. When I did something wrong, the instructor corrected me. It felt safer to try things out because I had someone to guide me.

But, most importantly, I had people I knew cheering me on. It was easy to join this gym because no matter what time slot I attended, I seemed to know at least 1 person. These ladies either pushed me to do impossible things through their own example, or related to my need to drop the weight that round.

I wasn’t alone anymore. I had a community of people around me striving after the same goal to be strong and healthy.

Here is where I get to the actual point. Life is like that. We can’t do this alone. We aren’t meant to do this alone. We need people to cheer us on and encourage us through the hard things. It’s a relief to have someone else relate to what we are going through. It is a breath of fresh air when a friend takes the opportunity to celebrate with you.

We are designed for community because when we work together, not alone or against one another, we are stronger.

At church, one of my favorite things to do is to help someone else find their community. I love, love, LOVE witnessing the transformation that takes place when a person gets plugged in and finds their home.

I think, deep down, most of us are aware of our need for other people. But it can be scary sometimes. We’ve been hurt by people before. We don’t know how to find the kind of friendship we long for. We tried that once, and were left feeling disappointed. What if we put ourselves out there and history repeats itself?

I can’t alleviate that fear. People are human. Right next to that need for community is a need for a Savior. And that, is where we need to begin.

Have you been hesitant to dive into that community? Small group? Serving? Getting to know that person outside of a Sunday morning? Go first. Realize that all those people have the same needs as you, and simply see if you are able to be a piece of the community they just might be longing for. Not a good fit? Try again. And again. Along the way you will discover that the best part of community is getting to bring life to someone else.

I would fail at going to the gym if there was no one to push me and root for me. My gym community is going to help me become stronger physically. There is another kind of community that pushes us and grows us emotionally and spiritually. Don’t give up fighting to find that and to be that for someone else. Let’s do this together.

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Because I’m Privileged

because-im-privileged

I’m going to tell you something that I am embarrassed and ashamed to admit. I do this for a reason, so please read this post in it’s entirety.

Not too long ago, perhaps maybe even just over a year ago, I would be scrolling through Facebook and come upon a post about racial injustice. My immediate thought response was often along the lines of, “Ugh, not everything bad that happens to black people is because they are black.” Or, “Why is everything always a race issue? We have a black president, can’t we just get past this?”

Thinking back to these moments makes my heart very, very sad. I am so grateful for this last year, as it has completely changed my perspective. Let me tell you how this happened.

I grew up in a loving, Christian home. This was a privilege. So was the fact that I had a personal home education. I was being raised by both of my parents who were in a strong marriage and living in the same home. I never went hungry. My mom stayed home for years to give us that personal home education. I had the opportunity to ride horses. I was born white and lived in a mostly white community.

Privilege, privilege, privilege.

The thing is, for quite some time, I didn’t actually know these things meant I was privileged. I thought rich people were the privileged ones. I worked in exchange for a discount for those horseback riding lessons, and the majority of my college education was paid for by scholarship and grants. I guess I didn’t realize middle class America was rich in comparison to most of the world.

Looking back, I see how I was/am privileged and how this fact has benefited me in many ways. Unfortunately, in my own privilege I have been blind to the lack thereof in the lives of others. Specifically in regard to the black community.

Now, my family certainly wasn’t racist and I have had black friends throughout my life. But I didn’t live their life. We didn’t talk about the differences in how we were treated just because of the color of our skin. I wonder now, how did that never come up in our conversations?

Here is the pinnacle of where my perspective shift began to occur. It happened during a message my pastor gave that was titled “Overcoming Racism.” I learned a lot in that message. I won’t be able to go into the details in this post, but please, I encourage you, listen to it for yourself. You can find it HERE. The truth that I learned in those few minutes broke my heart.

I started looking at things a little differently. I took that message as an opportunity to talk to one of my dear friends about what her life is really like. She is biracial. I learned things and my heart broke some more. There is an element of protection to the raising of her children that doesn’t even cross my mind in the raising of my own. She told me about working to the nth degree in school just to be considered an equal to her other peers. She is only one voice out of so many.

My husband is a history buff and loves to watch anything of historical nature. I’ve taken a little more of an interest in shows and movies that explore black history this year. Among such is a mini-series called “Roots” and a movie titled “Selma”. Both of these left my heart grieved at the hatred toward black people so ingrained in the history of our country.

This kind of thing doesn’t just disappear. It takes work to eradicate generations of racism in a community. One thing I’m learning, is that often, people don’t even realize a remark or an action could be hurtful toward another. We don’t know any better because we haven’t taken the time or put in the effort to know better.

And so I write this, because I was one who didn’t know any better. And with the privilege that I have in my life, I have an opportunity to speak to others who may be willing to listen and change their perspective in this issue. So, where do we begin? How do we fight against the idea that one race is better than another?

We get to know each other. Really and truly. If you don’t have a friend who is of a different color, background, or heritage than you, find one. If you already have this sort of friend, be open to listening when they share their personal experiences. Get to know each other. Really and truly.

Because the truth is, we are all created equal. He loves each and every one of us just the same and doesn’t play favorites. He gave his life for all, no matter the color of our skin.

“I looked again. I saw a huge crowd, too huge to count. Everyone was there – all nations and tribes, all races and languages. And they were standing, dressed in white robes and waving palm branches, standing before the Throne and the Lamb and heartily singing: ‘Salvation to our God on his Throne! Salvation to the Lamb!'” (Revelation 7:9-10; The Message)

Things You May Not Know About Infertility

Things You May Not Know About Infertility
Image by Brett Redgate

In the time I have spent discussing and reading about the topic of infertility, I’ve discovered quite a few things that I had never before considered. Today’s post is intended to share with you just a glimpse of my findings and what the journey might look like.

It Can be Lonely

Infertility isn’t exactly a standard topic of conversation. There is a stigma that seems to be attached to this issue that makes it hard to talk about. Women struggling with infertility often feel ashamed or embarrassed, making it difficult to reach out to others. Sometimes, even after reaching out, the loneliness remains. Friends may be switching life stages as they begin families of their own, making the absence of a baby even more evident. There are times when people simply don’t know what to say, and end up avoiding a conversation altogether. No one wants to feel excluded or left out, so if you have a loved one in this situation, it may be better to risk saying the wrong thing, than to say nothing at all.

It Can be Expensive

Insurance companies vary immensely, but one thing I was shocked to discover is the lack of coverage regarding infertility. Some companies cover only certain procedures or medications. Certain businesses may not have infertility included on their policies because it keeps the rates lower. When coverage is provided, there is always a limit. This can come in the form of a percentage or a cap on funds. What does this mean? It’s a lot of money out of pocket for very expensive treatments. One round of IVF can cost anywhere from $15,000 – $20,000, so unless there is stellar insurance coverage, this can be a huge hit to families that makes seeking further treatments seem impossible.

Everyone Responds Differently

Some people may jump at the chance to talk about all the details, while others want to keep it all to themselves. Some women may attend every baby shower and want to be included in all the baby talk. Others would appreciate being invited, but may not attend an event for the wave of emotions it could bring. For everyone, there are good days, hard days, hopeful days, and dark days. Not sure how to support a friend or family member? Ask. Find out if they have books or resources they would recommend you read, if they need a support person on days they make an office visit, or if they would like to get together and talk about anything but infertility.

Medical Advancements Often Bring More Questions

Let’s say a specific issue causing infertility has been discovered. Now what? Should treatments be sought? What type of treatment should be pursued? How many times should the treatment be attempted? Is adoption an option? When choosing IVF, how many eggs should be fertilized? How many fertilized eggs should be implanted? What happens to the ones remaining? All of these questions take on financial, emotional, and spiritual weightiness. Our society has a great gift in being able to pursue these options, but also a great responsibility when it comes to making such decisions. If you or someone you know is in the process of deciding, pray for wisdom and direction from the Lord. In all things, He knows best.

There is Hope

No, there isn’t a guarantee, but there is hope. Hope beyond our circumstances that God ultimately is in control and knows what is best for His children. Whether He brings a child in your life or not, He loves you, cares for you, and has a plan for you. You are treasured and adored as a daughter of the King. Cling to Him and trust Him because He is GOOD.

Resources

There are so many more things I have not begun to touch upon in connection to infertility. Curious to find out more information for yourself? Here are a couple of Christian based websites I found that you may be interested in checking out:

www.hannah.org
http://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/facing-crisis/infertility/infertility

I would also like to extend an invitation. It seems infertility is lonely for many, so I’d like to help set up some connections. If you are interested in meeting local women who have experienced infertility, clear your calendar for Friday, May 13th of 2016 at 6:30pm. Contact me privately if you have my information, or leave a comment below and I will respond with the exact location. When you comment, I am the only person who is able to see your email address! I hope you will find a community of support and encouragement as we honor one another.

Starting a Conversation About Infertility

Starting a Conversation About Infertility
Image by Brett Redgate

Not too long ago, I discovered that this week in April is known as Infertility Awareness Week. I’ve had it on my heart to post on infertility and thought this would be the perfect opportunity. Therefore, this week you can expect one post per day Monday-Friday under the following titles:

  1. Starting a Conversation About Infertility
  2. Infertility in the Bible
  3. Infertility: Jenni’s Story
  4. Infertility: Ashley’s Story
  5. Things You May Not Know About Infertility

So today, I simply want to let you know why I’m opening up the door to this conversation.

When I was very young, I was greatly intrigued by a trend I noticed in the Bible. I had regularly heard about Sarah and Mary’s miracle pregnancies, but every so often I would notice yet another woman who had struggled through infertility. These observations may have started as early as 12 years old, and continued through college.

I was so struck by the number of women who were mentioned to have been barren, that I believed God was preparing me to go through my own battle with infertility. This was not the case. When my husband and I decided to have children, I quickly became pregnant and had easy pregnancies and deliveries.

It wasn’t until recently that I began to think these revelations from the Bible may have been for a different purpose.

Though I have not personally fought through infertility, I am tender toward those who have. My heart bleeds for women longing to have a child but who are unable to conceive. I ache for those who have experienced miscarriage. I have wept openly for anyone who has found the joy of pregnancy, only to have to say goodbye to their precious child before ever leaving the hospital.

I am not going to pretend to have all the answers. I couldn’t possibly begin to explain God’s intentions for specific people. I believe every person, situation, and circumstance is different and God has a divine plan for each and every one of us. I believe “… that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28; NIV)

The topic of infertility is heavy for so many. I hope to write with tenderness and love. My goal in this is to acknowledge the struggle, bring encouragement, and ultimately give glory to God for He is always good no matter our circumstances. I want to share with you some of the stories I have observed in the Bible as well as some of the stories of women who have recently faced infertility and/or loss head on.

So, bear with me, the next few posts may be hard to read at times. But I pray that as we tread these murky waters, God’s light shines through and brings life to the hurting.