(disclaimer: this post does not end with a pregnancy or miraculous healing)
I was diagnosed with endometriosis back in 2013 after a laparotomy surgery. The doctor found that it was Stage 3 (out of 4). He was able to remove it all, thankfully. This helped me a lot to feel less pain each month. I charted my health with Natural Family Planning and was able to help diagnose it. I was so grateful for that! This happened the year before I met my husband and we got married, so I assumed there would be some difficulty getting pregnant.
We met and got married in 2014 and started trying right away. However, after about 6 months, nothing was happening. The doctor met with us and we tried several healthy options including a seman analysis, ovulation inducers: Clomid and Letrizole, HCG shots, hormone supplements, ultrasounds, etc. Nothing seemed to be working.
After 4 years of all of the poking, prodding, scheduling intimacy, charting and stress of this battle began to weigh on the both of us. Maybe God didn’t want or need us to have children…could this actually be true? How far do we get in this journey until we stop testing? Do we make that call? Do we seek help?
For those who have dealt or are dealing with struggles in fertility know that this can be such a burdensome cross. It takes a toll on your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. It’s exhausting. It’s trying on yourself and your spouse, your trust in God, and relationships with others.
Oh, did I mention that my husband also suffers from chronic health issues himself?
So, here we were as newlyweds in our young 30s and trying to manage these massive health issues. Thanks, God! I wasn’t sure how to deal with the reality that we may never have biological children of our own. He was just trying to get through each day without getting a migraine. It’s been four years of wrestling with God in these issues.
Where are you while we are suffering with these issues? There was definitely a sense of abandonment and hopelessness that was present.
We did have support from our local Catholic community and our families as well. What typically were private issues, are now forced to be made public and were inquired about a lot from those that care for us. Not to mention the comparison devil, which was especially strong in Catholic circles of healthy people having a lot of children, a lot.
This did take a toll on our marriage as we both were trying to deal with the reality of our lives. I was trying to wrap my mind around being newly married, being a caregiver, and that my marriage was not living up to my expectations. I felt like God didn’t think I was worth a good marriage, healthy husband and children. My husband was operating at about 40% most days with his health and trying to stay above water, while holding down a job and trying to love me the best he could.
Somewhere during my life, I started to believe the lie that “I am in control of my life.” I believe that the Lord knew that I needed a good “interruption” in my soul. When we believe that we are in control, we only trust in ourselves and it becomes a breeding ground for pride.
I realized that I stopped looking up and only looked at myself.
And I ran with it, I fought so hard to stay in control because I did not think that the sufferings He was offering me with the right ones. I wanted different crosses. This is where the anger began. My heart was so angry at this perceived injustice that was being given to me. I felt as those I was a beggar on the street and all the Lord thought I was worthy of were scraps and leftovers. I felt like I was no longer His daughter.
These crosses began to consume me and BECOME me. I was trying so hard to keep my life and marriage in the tiny expectation box that I had prepared my whole life. To be honest, I was not open to “Your will be done,” that I prayed each week. I found too much comfort in my idealism and expectation. I had stopped finding comfort in Him.
How do we find support for these challenges if there are no foreseeable solutions? How do we ease our hearts from grieving a life that is not what we want? How do I know He loves me when the circumstances of my life do not reflect that?
I am sure there are sufferings in your lives that can also relate to the above questions. I believe that God allows us to experience certain crosses specific to ourselves for a reason. We may never know that reason, but there are some consistent themes that He intertwines within them.
He was asking me to release control.
He was asking me to find my identity only in Him.
I spent years in prayer begging Him for explanations, begging Him for help, begging Him for healing.
He wanted me to shift my perspective.
I became so exhausted from these crosses and realized that something needed to change because I was in a deep desolation. By the grace of God, I decided to take a day to sit in prayer and listen to Him. I decided to spend time with Him even when I struggled to trust Him. Why?
Because this is what we are called to, sisters. We are called to a commitment. Believe me, I am as emotional as they come and there are days where my feelings are the only truth I believe in and it is very tough to pull myself out of them to be more logical. I knew that even though I didn’t feel as though God was loving me did not mean that He wasn’t.
So I decided to talk to Him about that in prayer.
He was very patient with me. He showed me that with many things in life, there is a different perspective that was not just mine. He asked me to try to view these crosses as He would see them – from His heavenly perspective.
I learned that day that the Lord does love me. He loves me to the point that He wants my soul to grow into a deeper relationship and reliance on Him alone. I received this image of Him looking at me in the eyes, tilting my chin up to His, as He whispered –
“My love for you is greater than you will ever know. I want you to keep your eyes fixed on Me. I want to carry these crosses for you. I am here. I gave you these specific crosses so that you can share them with others.”
What He was saying was two-fold: I can share these crosses with others 1) to make my load lighter and 2) to help others to feel less alone in their suffering.
This was the redemption to my suffering.
“But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength,
so that through me the proclamation might be completed.” – 2 Timothy 4:17
I was being asked to share my experiences with others so that they may come to the Lord. This was precisely why He was allowing me to experience suffering: to deepen my trust in Him, to be vulnerable and to lead others to Him.
Is this also what Isaiah was speaking about in his prophecy about Jesus?
“…by his wounds we were healed.” – Is. 53:5
Maybe He uses my woundedness to heal other souls. If the Lord can make my suffering redemptive for just one other person, I will gladly cooperate and consent.
That day, the Lord was revealing to me His reasoning for my suffering, not because He needed to, but because He had to invite me to actively participate in it. I spent so much time resisting instead of participating. Now was my chance to respond to this invitation in becoming a spiritual director and practicing spiritual motherhood with women.
How is He redeeming your suffering today?
I pray that you can trust Him when He says He loves you and He has good plans for you. Sometimes your perspective is not the only one. Ask Him today how He sees you, see your situation and what the promise He has for you in that situation.
Messenger by Mary Oliver
My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird-
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, still not half-perfect? Let me keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,
which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.
How is He astonishing you today?
Another argument. Same cycle.
It’s the same repetitive fight we have all too often: he’s sick and isn’t able to give me as much energy or time that I would like or need to feel loved each day in our marriage. I feel like I’ve had to sacrifice so much for him and adjust MY life, MY dreams and MY social circles. He constantly feels like he’s not good enough for me and feels like he is failing. I’m feeling unloved and he’s feeling disrespected.
Why do we do this to ourselves?
We attack each other and get angry at each other, instead of directing our anger elsewhere. For me, I need to direct my anger and resentment towards God and also against the Evil one. Because I know that God asked me to marry this amazing man…in sickness and health. And I did agree with Him. However, I arrived in this marriage ready with 1,000 expectations (mostly in part from what I’ve seen in the movies) that I didn’t know I had and pushed them onto my husband. And I wasn’t ready for reality, the reality of marriage, of illness and of him. I barely gave him a chance to be freely who God was asking him to be.
And for him, that means being a man of amazing character, wit, intelligence and love. A man whose body may be fighting against its own immune system, but whose spirit is alive and determination is impeccable. And deep down, he wants to love me the way I need it…
Instead, I look to my husband, my expectations and to God at times and scream — WHY DON’T I DESERVE XYZ?? WHY CAN’T I GET WHAT I ALWAYS WANTED IN MARRIAGE? WHY DOES MY HUSBAND HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS? WHY DO I HAVE TO SUFFER EACH DAY WITNESSING HIM SUFFER? WHY CAN’T WE TRAVEL MORE? WHY CAN’T WE HAVE DATE NIGHTS?
None of this makes sense. None of this is logical. None of this can be explained – maybe never will be. Day in and day out, our life is unpredictable. This is one of the crosses that God is asking us to bear. And I have to admit, there are several days where I throw it back at Him telling Him that I don’t want this one. I’ve fallen just as He did, underneath the cross. And I will keep falling because I am realizing that I can’t bear it alone. He is near, very close and wants to help me an he sends people into my life to do this for me as well.
The beauty of suffering as Christians is that we GET to mirror the life of Jesus Christ. Day after day, picking up the cross and continuing on the journey, alongside our friends and family.
My marriage brings heavy crosses. However, the daily “yes” or fiat and daily cry for help greater than myself, allows me the opportunity to submit. To release all control.
The challenge for me in all of this is that it’s actually really about control. The unpredictability, unfilled expectations, health issues that we face on a daily basis all force me to my knees. And force me to accept this fact: I am not in control. He is and always will be.
And yet, who am I to always think I am?
Let Him be Greater today.
“This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him,and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”
– 1 John 3:19-24
As part of my Spiritual Direction formation, I was asked to make a 19th Annotated Ignatian Retreat on the Spiritual Exercises. Whoa. I had heard of making a 30-day silent retreat with the Spiritual Exercises if you felt as though you may be called into a religious vocation. However, this version of the exercises was created for “busy” people. Instead of 30 days, you stretch it out over 30 weeks. I will be working with a spiritual director on a monthly basis to complete the retreat. I am committing to praying for an hour each day for the next 8 months. I am excited about this new journey, but also a little nervous as to what God will reveal to me.
These exercises were written by St. Ignatius of Loyola in the 1500s. He was a Spanish soldier wounded in battle. While he lay healing in the hospital, he experienced a conversion. He later wrote these exercises for prayer and founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits).
Please pray that God will provide what I need during this retreat and for the grace to accept it! St. Ignatius, pray for me.
Have any of you ever done the retreat?
This is my praise report section and I offer it to you to add things as well. Sometimes it’s hard to see how God is working in our lives because we are too caught up in them and it may be easier to read how He is working in other’s live. It’s the best kind of reminder!
I believe that God asks us to partake in a mission for the present moment we are in. After working in full-time ministry for the Catholic Church for 14 years, I could easily get overwhelmed with the amount of work that needed to be down in building God’s kingdom on earth. However, St. Teresa of Calcutta’s words ring true, “do small things with great love.” God wasn’t asking me to save the world, He was asking me to be present to people – to whomever He brought into my path that day.
How can I be Christ to this person, in this moment?
Sometimes that could be a smile or a hug, other times it could mean I pay for their lunch or simply listen to what they need to share.
This became a lot less daunting to me and a lot more practical.
There were times when I simply offered a nice gesture (to strangers), times when I could sense what this person may need, but other times I just asked them. “What is it that you need right now?” I imagine that is also the way the Lord approaches us each day in prayer.
When I imagine Him asking this of me, my heart is instantly at ease. It also allows me the freedom to identify what my needs are and to communicate them. It forces me to feel humbled that He would ask, and also to trust Him with my heart. It pushes into the core of my heart and allows me to rest in His goodness.
Knowing that we are sinners and imperfect human beings, this practice of being in tune with others allows them the opportunity to trust us enough to care for them as best as we can. To also allow the Lord of the universe to care for them.
What are the missions of the moment that He is directing you towards today?