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Archive for April, 2009

Day Two – God is Gracious

I am definitely feeling better today than yesterday. Praise God!

I realized after talking to a few people that I am doing better when I am not talking to people about it. I know that sounds weird, but I feel at peace when I am not explaining how this all unfolded. When I try to explain the process of how I’ve gotten through it, it seems like well-meaning people seem to jump quickly to telling me why I am wrong or should think of it differently. And what I am trying to tell them is how I got from point A to point B. And yes, I know, I make mistakes along the way and I know that I could have a better attitude and I know that God’s will will be done. I know that whatever happens, I need to find a way to be at peace with it. And that is what I am working through.

I think the challenge is that I think externally and I think I need to learn how to manage this situation more internally before speaking. Sometimes I need to blog/write it down, sometimes I need to talk it out. And I am a planner. I like to have a lot of different possibilities and options on the table. I want to be prepared to deal with the worst and the best and everything in between. Some people organize their cupboards, others go running – but I fold laundry, hash things out with God and figure out all of the different rearrangements of my life.

When I get dealt this kind of situation, I crave information on it. I read blogs, I check WebMD, I soak up other people’s stories. I’d like to think that centuries ago, women did that same thing. Except they had a lot less science.

I have been loving my Chris Tomlin CD that I got at Women’s Retreat Fall of 2007 (where Margot Fiesler said, “You are either in a crisis, coming out of a crisis or going into a crisis.”) The lyrics that are sticking with me tonight are, “Oh Great God, be glorified, Our lives laid down, Yours magnified, Oh Great God be lifted high.” I hope that through all of this, God will be glorified.

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Being Jacob

So I knew that today was likely to be difficult, but part of me thought that we would just sort of “hammer out” treatment options and everything would be all set. That is simply not how it went.

Let’s start at the beginning. Wednesday I received a phone call from my doctor’s office. When you have pending test results, a phone call is not a good sign. Really, you want your doctor to send you a card in the mail or post the results online – you do NOT want a nurse to leave you a message to call back. And the message was vague, also not what you want. When I called back, the nurse let me know that my testosterone levels were slightly elevated and that the doctor wanted me to come in to discuss treatment options.

What does slightly elevated testosterone even mean??

So I asked the nurse and she let me know that it meant that I likely had Poly-Cystic Ovary Syndrome. My response at first was, “Oh, ok.” After hanging up, I thought, “Wait a second, I don’t even know what that means!” Using trusty WebMD.com and Google, Frank and I quickly understood that PCOS is what it sounds like – I am growing cysts on my ovaries and this is causing a disruption in my hormone levels and might lead to infertility.

This morning I went in to meet with Dr. K (my ob gyn, not my father-in-law) to discuss the ramifications of PCOS. Frank was kind enough to text me a few last minute questions for the doctor since he couldn’t be there.

Dr. K’s office is very spa-ish. Most doctors’ offices are very clinical, but the practice that I go to is very cozy, in my opinion. Dr. K is a tallish woman – about 5’9″ or so and very thin. She’s probably in her late 30’s and is very professional and collected. I think I like that she is collected because if nothing else, you want a doctor who has her wits about her. She reminds me of my last doctor in Wisconsin (who I LOVED – Dr. L).

Anyway – at first the nurse had me sit up on the exam table and prepared to take notes, but when I let her know I was here for a follow up, she nodded, folded up her lap top and went to get Dr. K. I felt silly sitting up on the exam table, so I opted for the 3/4 size chair. That’s the thing – because I am tall, some of these waiting room chairs seem like they are almost big enough… but not quite. Anyway, I sat there, playing brick-breaker, waiting for Dr. K.

When she came into the room, she was reading through my information. “Ok, well, it looks like you were having irregular periods and your testosterone levels came back slightly elevated. Ok.” She sat down in her doctor chair with her laptop.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“Well, some people just have higher levels of testosterone. And some people who are very heavy can have hormone levels that are not in line. And sometimes people might have PCOS.” That last option she said a little slowly. She said a little bit more about PCOS – all stuff I learned on WebMD.

“So are you saying that you think that I have PCOS?” I finally asked.

“Yes, it would appear that you have a few of the symptoms. Now if you weren’t trying to get pregnant, we would put you on birth control to try to help control the hormone levels. But since you are, we’ll want to get you enrolled in our fertility program and considering clomid and meta (something – can’t remember the drug – but it treats type 2 diabetes).”

“Ok, so is this what you are recommending as treatment? I should enroll in the fertility program?”

“Yes – they will check your insurance and confirm what is covered. Now the fertility program does require that you are able to get ultra sounds, blood draws, and your husband will have to do a semen analysis [joy]. With your husband’s schedule, you’ll need to determine how committed you are to getting pregnant.”

“What do you mean?”

Dr. K: “Well, you will be on clomid and you’ll need to be able to be together on your ovulation days. It doesn’t make sense to put you on the drug and then risk him not being around. You could maybe stagger the months if you know he’ll be around and not take it on the months that he won’t be around. You will just need to see how committed you are to this.”

Me: “Since his schedule isn’t very reliable or consistent, are there other options? I don’t want this to drag on and get expensive and find out at the end of it that we’ll just ahve to do IVF.”

Dr. K: “Well, we can certainly look at insemination [ugh] and try to time it out. We don’t let this go longer than 6 cycles before we refer you to a fertility specialist if it’s not going well.”

There was more to our conversation than that, but that gives the gist of it. I am going to work to control my diet and eat better to help manage the hormone levels, but it sounds like we will need to get the help of professionals in order to have a family.

Writing it down like that sounds so matter-of-fact: We will need to get the help of professionals in order to have a family. Considering how rational that statement sounds, what happened after the doctor’s appointment was anything but.

I made it to my car and sat down, fighting tears. I called Frank to tell him what the doctor said and found it difficult to say the words. Even though I had prepared myself for the conversation with the doctor – even though I knew we’d probably have to start some rounds of clomid and get more blood work and tests, the reality of the situation hadn’t fully sunk in.

The thing about Frank and I is that we have been having the SAME fight for about 7 years. I think he is insensitive and he thinks I am too sensitive. We communicate alright normally, but when it comes to situations like this that are so incredbily emotional for me, I struggle to put my words and thoughts into rational sentences. I also need Frank to talk to me with empathy and emotion. And really, I needed him to be at that doctor’s appointment today and he wasn’t able to be there.

So I started to tell Frank about our appointment with the doctor and started to tell him about the treatment. He asked a question he believed to be totally rational and positive, “Do I need to be there on the exact days you ovulate for clomid treatments?” And like a rocket, I went off.

See, to Frank, he was saying, “This isn’t bad news, even if I can’t be there exactly on the right days, we have a chance.” What I heard was, “I hope you don’t expect me to make this my #1 priority and drop everything to be there for this.”

Even though we were discussing logistics, I was still processing this tremendous amount of sadness in my heart about this whole situation. I wanted Frank to say, “Babe, we are going to get this taken care of. Don’t you worry about it. Whatever we need to do, we will make it work.” And in his way, that’s what he was trying to show me through finding all of the opportunities for this to work.

After having a conversation that was basically Frank telling me not to be dramatic about the situation and me telling him to have a heart, we left it off on bad terms. I went to get my hair cut and colored, hoping that beautifying myself on the outside would somehow help lighten things on the inside – but no dice.

I left the salon between scattered thunderstorms and drove home. My cell phone decided not to work the entire way home. I was so annoyed. Ah, the injustice of having to listen to the radio instead of talking on my cell.

When I made it home, Frank called to clear the air. He was right on some things and I was right on others, but in the end, we were still in this place of “what next?”

I recognize that this is not the end of the world. I definitely do. We could get pregnant quickly on clomid. Or maybe we won’t. But there is still a good chance of something working out.

So after I hung up with Frank, I went downstairs to fold laundry and cry. I was crying so hard, that it was difficult to breathe and for a moment, I thought I might throw up (but thankfully, I didn’t).

With the news today, I just have an overwhelming feeling, as though I am standing at the base of a mountain, looking up. The fact that others before me have climbed this mountain is not as comforting as you would think. Yes, the fact that others can do it is fantastic! But there are so many people who get stranded on a summit or at an impasse. There are so many people who start climbing this mountain thinking it’s a day trip and it slowly turns into days, weeks, months and years before they realize that they can’t go back down, either. The costs of infertility are staggering and so many people rack of thousands of dollars in bills before they even get to the cost of IVF.

I don’t want to get caught in the avalanche of fertility. I don’t want to get pulled under and surface, only to find that I am in my late thirties and no closer to having a family than I was 10 years ago.

My mom is always telling me not to be stressed out, or we won’t get pregnant. When she says that, I get even more stressed out. But what if this is because of stress? Or what if it is because I’ve put on some weight? How ridiculous is it that I put cookies and treats ahead of having children?? Or what if we waited too long? I’m still young, but maybe we would have had a better chance a few years ago instead of right now.

Because I am well-read and educated, the thing that came to mind when thinking about this was in one of the Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis, the Lion (symbolizing God) says, “I don’t tell people what should have been, but rather what it was.” (totally paraphrasing) And that was comforting to me because there is nothing I can do about anything except what I have in front of me now.

So while I was in the basement, folding laundry and crying, I was arguing with God. Well, at first I was actually arguing with Frank at first. But then I realized that I wasn’t actually arguing with Frank. I was wrestling with God.

Why, God, does this have to happen on YOUR timeline? Why can’t this happen on my time line? Why is this so hard? Why are you making this difficult? Why?

And with that line of questioning, a whole bunch of images came back to me from this past week. God had been talking to me and preparing me for today, all week.

The biggest preparation was in His word. Our small group is reading Gensesis and we were on chapter 32 Thursday. That chapter is about Jacob wrestling with God. At the end of the “match,” God wrenches Jacob’s hip from his socket. See, God loved Jacob enough to wrestle with him.

Here I am, asking God why I can’t have a baby now. God is sovereign, the God of the universe and the Creator of all things. And I am crying in my basement, while I fold laundry, angry that my heavenly Father did not give me a baby today. What?? And God is so gracious that he heard me out before I even spoke. God is so faithful that He prepared me this week to know that it is OK to wrestle with Him. It is OK to be Jacob for a while. And at the end of wrestling, God is still God and I am still me.

After God dislocated Jacob’s hip, Jacob asked for God’s blessing and God changed Jacob’s name (which meant deceiver) to Israel (wrestles with God). And so my thought is that maybe after wrestling with God, I will be changed and I will be renewed. Jacob still screwed up after wrestling with God (we will get to that next week!), but God is still God.

So after I cried in the basement (and ate some ice cream), I came upstairs and grabbed my 2 liter of Diet Cherry 7-up and crawled into bed. I watched Ugly Betty. And then I wrote this post. And the song in my head right now is, “God of wonders, beyond our galaxy, you are holy, holy, the universe declares your majesty, you are holy, holy, Lord of Heaven and Earth. Early in the morning, I will celebrate the Light, and as I stumble in the darkness, I will call Your name by night.”

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Tonight we were reading about Esau losing his birthright and his blessing to his younger brother, Jacob. It’s an interesting story in the Bible that initially, we could not see the meaning of as a group tonight. But as we investigated and the women in our group looked into it further, we started to understand the deeper meaning and I think it was a very interesting discussion.

In the Jewish culture, birthright was everything. If you were first born, you were entitled to leadership and inheritance, etc. Isaac and Rebekah had twin sons, Esau and Jacob. Esau was the older of the two and was therefore entitled to everything that would belong to a firstborn son. Despite all that he was entitled to, he gave it all up one day simply because he was hungry. Tossing away his birthright like that was essentially throwing it in God’s face. At that point, both the birthright AND the blessing belonged to Jacob. When Esau tried to secure the blessing from his father, and Jacob stole it out from under him, the fact of the matter was that Esau wasn’t entitled to that blessing by his own decisions. When he wept and pleaded for his father to provide him with a blessing as well, this desire did not come out of a repentant heart that recognized Esau’s sin and error, but rather out of a heart that believed Esau was still entitled to receiving something.

And I think that is the key: When I approach God with an attitude of entitlement and begin my request by essentially saying, “I deserve this” or I list all of the things I have done to earn God’s favor, or I whine/beg for something without acknowledging the extreme deficit of my sin – I am approaching God with a wrong attitude. If I know that God is sovereign (ruler over all things) and God is holy and God is good, then who am I to beg and plead for my own desires without acknowledging that it is only by God’s grace that I can even ask for these desires?

I think that God hears us out. If He didn’t, prayer would be a bizarre and cruel thing. Sometimes the things I ask for are not the things that are best for me. Like a father who gives His child leafy green vegetables for dinner instead of a chocolate bar, God has my best interest at heart, even when I do not agree.

But I am a little too tired to finish all of these thoughts. I will have to write more on this and an eternal mindset sometime this weekend.

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what is happy vs. joy?

I have been thinking on this a lot. I have been asking people what they think about it, too.

What is happiness?

I think happiness is an emotion. And I have learned that emotions are temporary. Ask anyone who has ever had a fight with someone they loved. The anger is real and fiery – and by the next morning, it almost always vanishes. Any remnants are just smoldering, and everything is much more manageable the next day. If such a powerful, all-consuming feeling like anger is temporary, then to me, it stands to reason that happiness is just as fleeting.

So, why pursue happiness if it is just an emotion?

I think what we are really pursuing is joy. But I think joy comes from inside. Sometimes I do not always have The Joy (thank you, JLN), but it’s something that I am working on. Joy is more useful, I think, than happiness because joy is finding happiness in any situation and seeing the good in it. Sometimes I may not be smiling during these difficult times, but in my heart, I can see the good and I can be thankful. Unfortunately for me, I struggle with joy during difficult times (as many people do, I am sure). I am a striver. I am always looking for the next thing to do, the next place to go. Figuring out the next thing is always on my mind. But perpetually looking around the corner is not helpful in my quest for joy. Striving means that I am not finding the joy in what God has provided and it means, for me, that I am looking for satisfaction outside of the Lord.

But, to be clear, I don’t think that happiness is bad or wrong or un-acheivable. I think happiness is very real, but is a by-product of joy. But if you look at other uses for the word “happy” – it can also be synonymous for words like luck and fortune. But luck and fortune are arbitrary events that are outside of my control. And happy also describes quick, thoughtless action – ie. “trigger-happy.” If someone is trigger happy, there is a connotation that they are thinking very little about the consequences of their actions – they are not considering the long-term effects.

When I have joy in my soul, I am happy. Maybe not always happy. You know, like how a square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not always a square?

I looked up joy in the dictionary and it actually had a verb tense which said: to rejoice, to be glad. You know what’s interesting? Happy doesn’t have a verb tense definition in the dictionary. I can HAVE a happy mood, but I cannot DO happy. According to the dictionary, I can joy in the Lord. Sure, it’s an old way of using the word joy, but it’s interesting to me that it is both a noun and a verb.

So, all of this reminded me that the apostles Peter and Paul both say to rejoice in all things, even though we suffer now, we know that there is a salvation that awaits us. And both urge us to find joy in suffering, because we are refined in fire.

As I mentioned, it is sometimes difficult for me to be joyful in my life sometimes. I don’t think this is unique, but I think it is often exacerbated by the fact that I sometimes have such a short-term view on life. I forget that my joy is not in finding material happiness in the next 30 days, but rather, my joy is in the Lord and from the Lord. He is eternal and I need to think of life in eternal terms and not in short-term time frames. But I am tired and I have a feeling that this will now balloon into further thoughts on eternal vs. immediate mindsets… So, more on that later.

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ATL

Well, here I am in sunny ATL. It’s not really sunny-it is grey and overcast, but that’s ok. My flight yesterday was oversold and since I fly luxurious standby, I did not make my flight (but my bag did…).

This weekend we drove down to ATL from CHI. We started out in a very cold chicago and ended in a greener and warmer atlanta.

It is hard to leave frank in atl, but I feel so blessed that we were able to get such a long piece of time together, especially over the holiday. The holidays are always hard for me if I have to go alone.

We talked a little about the current instability of the airline biz and how much better it would have been 20 yrs ago. But we determined that there were really only a few pilots who had entire stable careers and solid retirements. The kind of stability that is often talked about from the 1950s seems to me to be no more than a myth. Many pilots who got into the biz 20 yrs ago in the hay-day, slowly watched their pensions and respect and salaries slowly melt away. And yet instead of working to repair the public and corporate image of pilots, some of these unions argue about silly, inconsequential things. The public airing of dirty laundry hasn’t done much for the airlines and managements images, either. Large management bonuses and the continuous focus on airfare wars has helped create a de-humanizing or commoditizing (new word?) of an entire industry. By allowing the conversation to become about dollars and not total consumer experience, the airlines lost significant ground. And the public became privvy to awkard marital spats btwn the pilots and the management, both groups responsible for overspending the house budget on purses and beer. So, to make a long story longer, the the illusion of a better time is a lie. Much of what we are dealing with has been perpetually unraveling and the conversation must be about moving forward and not about restitution. Going back is not an option, but learning from our past is imperative.

Which, I suppose, is true of all situations.

I also have been thinking a lot about the word happy. The pursuit of mere happiness seems to be trivial and empty and temporary. The idea of pursuing happiness is, to me, one of the greatest lies told to this generation: if you pursue what you believe will make you happy, then you will be. I think that if you pursue short term happiness, the result is disappointment in the long run. I have found routinely that when I don’t get what I think I want when I want it, I am often more pleased in the long run. I think this is because I often believe that how things are right now will continue forever, unchanged. When I notice that I am thinking of life that way, I am full of anxiety and disappointment. True happiness, as frank always reminds me, is finding joy right now.

So that is what I am working on: finding the joy in the right now through God and remembering that we are not promised tommorrow. Not a solution for the pilot grp, but at least something that helps me get through today 🙂

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