The Other Pink Ribbon

Have you heard? October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

As too many women do, I have a significant family history of breast cancer. I even had my own breast-cancer scare a couple of years ago that mercifully ended with a negative biopsy.

I am thankful for the incredible strides researchers and doctors have made in breast cancer research. The disease’s national platform developed by charities, survivors, broadcasters, and NFL players’ shoes has no doubt aided those strides. There are marketing geniuses working for the breast cancer nonprofits…

…and I want to steal them to work for the other pink (and blue) ribbon of October.

What will it take for the infertility epidemic in this country to receive the kind of attention that other ribbon-causes get? Why aren’t these numbers alarming?

  • 40% of women currently in their twenties will suffer some form of infertility.
  • 30% of pregnancies end in miscarriage.
  • 0% of fertility treatments are covered by National health insurance programs.

Infertility is on the rise (for myriad reasons), costs of treatment are on the rise, marriages are breaking up, people are suffering; but no one besides the patients and their loved ones and doctors seems to care.

When will this get consistent national attention?

I observe that the only time infertility gets a soundbite on the news is when a celebrity confesses her (or his) struggle with it. But once that person has successfully started a family, the disease is never mentioned again. Do we all stop caring about other families as soon as our own medical procedure works or the long-awaited adoption comes through?

I want America’s population to know that October is also Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I want people to care more about the dying babies and the families who lose them or can’t create them, than they care about a woman’s right to prevent (with birth control) or kill (with abortions) those babies.

Oh, and how’s this for irony:

All those lumps in my breast were likely caused by years of hormone-based fertility treatments. Turns out the pain of infertility can return years after the treatments have ended.

The Dangerous Secret of Infertility

A new friend of mine asked me to guest post on her blog, In Due Time. Jump over there and register for another chance to win a signed copy of my book and a “Be Hopeful” necklace. Happy reading! Happy winning! –Amanda

2008: Canoeing at Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska

I don’t think any young married woman expects to have difficulty conceiving. I was 24, and David and I had been married about 2 years when we “stopped preventing” pregnancy. I guess we were still in fairytale land to some degree. No longer newlyweds, but still gaga for each other. (Eleven years later, I’m happy to say we still are!) After almost 2 more years of not preventing, we knew we had a problem.

For me, the diagnoses of the infertility-causing Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and an autoimmune disease were embarrassing. Here I was: a woman with the reputation of accomplishing much of what she put her mind to who couldn’t do the very thing God had created her body to do. I realized I might break His very first commandment: Be fruitful and multiply.

But there was hope! The fertility clinic we attended the first time said I was “young,” they saw this “all the time,” and they had a generic “plan” that was likely to work. To be honest, the whole experience was like being on a conveyer belt: pills, wait, ultrasounds, shot, intrauterine insemination, wait, negative pregnancy test, repeat. We later were embittered by their process, but leaving the clinic that first day we were thoroughly convinced by their nonchalance that we had nothing to worry about. We almost felt normal.

That’s when we decided not to breathe a word about our situation to anyone. We thought it would all be over soon, and we certainly didn’t want to have to talk about it with loved ones and nosy strangers alike.

If the fertility treatments had worked well, if we had birthed a healthy baby within the first year or two, and if we hadn’t had the additional heartbreak of miscarriage; then our “silence policy” would have made sense. Unfortunately 7 years and 5 miscarriages later, we were stuck on a deserted island surrounded by an ocean of secrets, tragedy, and despair. Yes, we had each other, but that really wasn’t enough.

So, what is a woman to do—tell the world you are pregnant just as soon as you know, building a potential support network if the worst happens, or wait until more people are asking why your waistline is widening than aren’t and hope you never need that support network? There isn’t an exact answer, but the safe road is probably straight down the middle. If you find you are pregnant, then tell those closest to you—those whom you trust. At the top of that list should be God. Let Him in on your fears, and allow Him to comfort you. [Amanda Hope Haley, Barren among the Fruitful (Nashville: HarperCollins Christian, 2014), 96.]

1997: At Charleston, South Carolina, with my
mama and sporting my cover-the-braces smile!

If I had it to do over again, the first person I would have told would have been my mama. She and I have always been best friends. She taught French at my high school, and I chose to have my locker right next to her room every year. I loved that she knew every detail of my life. And I’m pretty sure she loved that too. We were a constant support for each other (and you need that when you’re in high school—or teaching high schoolers!).

I don’t think there had ever been a secret between us, so there was no way I could hide the fact that I was keeping a secret. For years there was an elephant in the middle of every conversation. We could both see it, but I was the only one who knew what it was. She was hurt that I apparently no longer trusted her. I felt guilty for hurting her. She didn’t know she was hurting me every time she mentioned her future grandchildren or bought a bassinet to keep at her house “just in case.” It was a vicious cycle that damaged our relationship, and it was all my fault.

So why didn’t I just fess up? Because after you’ve started keeping a secret that is literally about life and death, it’s pretty hard to catch someone up years later.

As all secrets do, the truth eventually came tumbling out of me. Mama and Daddy found out what was going on after a Mother’s Day church service when I pulled her back down into the seat next to me and confessed I’d had 3 miscarriages. That was not ideal. To put it mildly.

What started out as David and me not wanting to make a “big deal” out of our situation grew into monster of a deal. It has taken years to repair the damage our secret did to our loved ones, and it multiplied our own pain exponentially when we didn’t allow others to comfort and pray for us.

So don’t do what we did. Take that middle road, and tell your loved ones what is happening in your life. The healing will start immediately.

Surviving Mother’s Day…with Some Covert Honesty

Last winter I had a telephone interview with Rachael Jackson, president of Shattered Media. She compiled a lot of what we discussed into an article for Shattered Magazine, hoping those who have friends and family suffering with infertility will learn what words are comforting and what words are hurtful, especially on Mother’s Day.

Survival Tip 5: Share Rachael’s Article

“Seven Things Not to Say to Couples Dealing with Infertility” 

Amanda Hope Haley, author of Barren Among the Fruitful: Navigating Infertility with Hope, Wisdom, and Patience, and her husband struggled for infertility in silence for almost seven years. Seven Mother’s Days went by in silent pain. Month after month of trying, five miscarriages, and who knows how many negative pregnancy tests had ended with no children. Believing it was one thing God had created her to do, she turned inward—tracking her temperature, food, exercise, ovulation, everything. Amanda geared her entire life toward one major task: getting pregnant. 

“Why am I not good enough?” Amanda wondered, all while struggling with shame and depression. For years, Amanda Hope Haley went to Mother’s Day services, baby showers, and baby dedications for all of her friends in her life group—seven of them to be exact—putting up the smile and her white picket fence. Amanda carried the burden alone until one day she could carry it no longer. 

One Sunday morning, they were at the end of their rope and almost done trying to have children. Innocently, a guy at church asked her, “How’s it going?” and Amanda literally collapsed onto the floor and dissolved into a bucket of tears. The women came and picked her up to comfort her and hold her, and in the midst of their care, she blurted out loud that she had been in therapy, struggling with infertility and was incredibly messed up inside by depression. Their response to her “confession?” Well, what do you know, they had been going to therapy too. The women found common ground and support from each other as they shared their stories. 

And it was that moment—when she fell apart and heard the stories of the women helping her—that she learned the Christian life is about relationships. Real, open, and authentic relationships where truth can be shared unashamedly because of the common bond in Christ, who has offered us all hope. 

But sometimes, we just don’t know what to do in relationships with people who are struggling. And sometimes, when we don’t know what to say or do, we just turn away. And sometimes, we even say things that are incredibly hurtful and insensitive, even when spoken earnestly and in love. 

So to help you this Mother’s Day, here is Amanda Hope Haley’s list of seven things to NOT say to couple enduring infertility: 

1. “Sarah was 90 when she had children.”
Really? Does this need to be explained? 

2.”Oh yeah, that happened to my sister.”
You might be trying to identify with your friend, but it minimizes the problem, and leaves her wondering why she is so hurt by it if everyone gets through it. 

3. “Do you think maybe you’re not doing it right?”
Come on. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist. 

4. “Well at least you know you can get pregnant.”
This was actually spoken to Amanda after one of her miscarriages and is not something a grieving woman wants or needs to hear after losing a child. 

5. “Just give it time, you’re young and it will be fine.”
That was the comment at age 25. Everyone at the clinic said “it’s fine…” But at 30, everything changed and Amanda became “old.” the tone changed to “you waited too long.” She struggled with the guilt of deciding to get her education because she was young and had time, but then Amanda felt like she had done something wrong and it was somehow her fault for pursuing her degrees. 

6. “You can always adopt.”
Her husband told her once that she was thinking about adoption like it was a consolation prize. But the fact was that she wasn’t wanting to adopt because she had a heart for it, she would have been adopting so that she could get to the goal of having a child. That’s not the heart for adoption; adoption is a calling. As a result of Amanda not feeling the call to adopt, people would act like it’s the most horrible thing in the world to not want to adopt but to desire biological children. Amanda knows God is blessing children through them in other ways they couldn’t if they had their own kids, and she is thankful for those opportunities. But they feel judged when people are astonished that they don’t choose to adopt one of the million kids in the world. 

7. “Just pray harder.” “You’re such a good person.” “God will give you the desires of your heart.” “Just have faith and believe.” 

A lot of people throw faith out as the solution. But she felt like she had a broken body when she couldn’t even do the one thing God had created women to do. With a broken spirit, too, she questioned God: “Why am I not good enough?” It wasn’t helpful to just tell her to have more faith, when it was God she was struggling with. There are unintended consequences to slapping a Bible verse on a problem and calling it done. 

Instead of thinking that you have to have the answer, maybe just admit that you have no answers. Amanda Hope Haley suggests you ask people how they’re doing. It’s that simple. Don’t feel like you have to be so quick to defend God or cheer them up. Simply spend time with them, allowing them to be sad, and walking with them. There’s no pat answer to infertility on Mother’s Day. You just have to be on the journey with them. 

The presence of Amanda’s friends who loved her and opened up to her allowed her to see God more clearly. Amanda shared with me the hope she finally sees in her infertility:
“God used that time to teach me a whole lot and the main thing is that it is not all about me. He taught me that it is about Him and His will. The biggest revelation I had during that period about His will (is that) God has one will and that is reconciliation of humanity to Himself. He has paths and plans for us, but everything He has planned for us in our lives is about His one will. I had to change my prayers from please give me a baby to please just let me be in your will. I know that I will only be happy when I am in your will.”

Before church on Sunday, post this on your social media. Maybe you’ll avoid some awkward conversations by letting Rachael and me do the complaining for you. 😉

So how do you respond to the comments that are meant to be helpful but hurt you instead? Comment below with your stories or tips, and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Barren among the Fruitful and a “Be Hopeful” necklace! I’ll contact the winner tomorrow. Good luck!

Surviving Mother’s Day…at Church

When David and I still lived in Middle Tennessee, we were super-involved with our church. We assumed (and assumed others assumed about us) that since we didn’t have children, we had more time to do stuff for the body. If we heard of a need somewhere, we did our best to help. That’s how we ended up hosting a Life Group, prepping Communion every Sunday, and basically being available to do whatever whenever. And we loved (almost) every minute of it.

About five years ago, those responsibilities dovetailed just before a Mother’s Day service. While I was pouring juice into hundreds of tiny cups, one of my LG friends told me she was miscarrying. Because my David was away for work and her husband was serving elsewhere in the building that morning, I sat with my friend and saw the Mother’s Day service through her eyes:

Opening Scripture: Psalm 139:13; Jeremiah 1:5; and every other “womb” verse you can think of
Praise Song: “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord (You Give and Take Away)”
Interlude: 10,000 baby dedications
Teaching: “Born of Flesh and Spirit”
Closing: Standing ovation for all the moms

I don’t remember the exact details of the service. I do remember how that Mother’s Day felt in light of the pain in my friend’s posture and face.

Survival Tip 4: Know the Best Place to Worship

Why do we join church families? Just to have somewhere to go on Sunday morning?

God wants us to worship in a community because we learn and grow better when we are together. We should be each other’s supporters, challengers, cheerleaders, and keepers. And we need to recognize when each role is appropriate.

Mother’s Day is one of those Sundays we choose to cheer for moms and the hard work they do all year. Certainly they deserve the praise! But we also need to be cognizant of our sisters who need support those same days.

One great thing about moms is that they don’t want to hurt others. By nature they are nurturers. I bet they’d be just as content with a subtle “you’re awesome!” from the pulpit, knowing the traditional fireworks display is hurting their infertile sisters.

Besides, it’s their kiddos’ drawings and husbands’ breakfasts that they look forward to and remember, right?

So I say, hey Sunday-morning service organizers: dial it back a notch. Save the baby dedications and emotional songs for another day.

(And kuddos to our old church for doing just that in the following years!)

My anecdote tells the stories of two women: one who is miscarrying (my friend) and one who has accepted God’s plan for her not to have children (me). I was at the place spiritually and emotionally where I could honestly sing, “You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, ‘Lord, blessed be Your Name.'” My friend was NOT. She needed support (which I hope I offered) and the love and healing only God could give to her.

God will find you, no matter where you choose to worship Him on Mother’s Day. If you look at your church’s order of service and think, “I can’t do this,” then find a place and a way to honor Him privately. Tell Him about your pain and fear. Ask Him to heal your spirit. Then commit to living your life according to His plan for you.

That private worship time will honor God and bless you better than any corporate service where you spend 90 minutes fighting back tears.

So how do you worship God on Mother’s Day? Comment below with your stories or tips, and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Barren among the Fruitful and a “Be Hopeful” necklace!

Surviving Mother’s Day…with Family

My David with our precious niece and goddaughter.

David and I had been married for five years: the point when people stop asking “when will you” and start asking “why haven’t you had children?” We had just started treatments, and neither of us were ready to talk about our situation with anyone. (We weren’t even talking about it with each other very much!)

At a child’s birthday party, David and I were pleasantly laughing as the kiddo struggled to open my too-well-taped present when we heard an extended family member stage-whisper, “Look at Amanda smiling at the baby. Maybe she’ll let David have children after all.” I fought back tears as David made a quick goodbye to the parents, and we left.

Ah, family. Why do some of us think it is okay to check our tact at the door? Why do we assume we know everything about others’ lives? Family probably doesn’t need a special occasion to get into your business, but Mother’s Day will give the inconsiderate an extra-special license. Parenting is the theme of the day, so if you are present and married, they’ll be wondering why you aren’t diving into the festivities.

Survival Tip 3: Start Telling Your Story

A few years into our fertility adventure, I realized that the best way to interact with everyone I knew was with the truth. My silence only bred more questions in others.

But when you’re still working through the immediate pain of losing a child or not conceiving one, inconsiderate comments and questions hurt (no matter who says them) and can force you out of a cheerful child’s birthday party in a fit of tears and trembling.

So know where you are in your healing process. Surround yourself with your closest, most trusted family members, and make sure they know your situation. No one will protect you better than your favorite aunt or loving mom. They can watch out for you at events, advise you how to react, and tell you it is okay not to attend this birthday party or that holiday luncheon when you are at your lowest.

As you heal, you’ll find it is easier to tell everyone what is happening in your life, and I bet the inconsiderate comments cease. Knowledge can produce understanding, and understanding can yield love. And fertility patients need all the love and support they can get, especially from those who’ve known them all their lives.

So how do you prepare to face questions at holiday get-togethers? Comment below with your stories or tips, and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Barren among the Fruitful and a “Be Hopeful” necklace!

Surviving Mother’s Day…in the Media

Copper and I have a morning routine. We get David out the door with a full stomach, coffee in his hand, and lots of kisses; then we settle down in the living room for snuggle time. Copper falls asleep belly-up on my lap while I drink a cup of coffee and watch the local news. It’s a nice way for me to break up the morning between family time and work time. (Once the puppy is asleep, I hit the computer.)

This week, every morning news source I’ve seen opens with news about the royal birth. Welcome to the world, Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana! The Today Show has already done a segment on your future as a trend-setter. CBS this morning told me just how close you are to seizing the throne for yourself. And my local station couldn’t believe how great your mum looked 10 hours after your birth. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram–you’re already everywhere!

In years past this constant coverage would have bothered me a lot. In May 2011 I was alone the entire month. David was traveling Monday through Friday, and he was working at his office on the weekends. I was lonely, and when I wanted to escape my own translation work for a few minutes, all I could find were sitcoms, “reality” shows, and commercials with Mother’s Day themes. An already difficult time was exacerbated as my one place of escape became off-limits.

Survival Tip 2: Control the Flow of Information

I have clinical depression, and while we were trying to get pregnant it was not well managed. Hormones played a huge roll in my imbalances, and I couldn’t take the drugs I really needed to stay balanced because their safety for babies is uncertain. What I put into my body–and my mind–had immediate effects on my moods and my health. I should have been spending free moments with the people who loved me, not have been ruled by my feelings of sadness and fatigue and settled for the TV as a companion.

Anyone who feels punished by Mother’s Day can’t do anything about the physical signs of it all over town, but he or she can choose to cut off the TV, smartphone, computer, and tablet. In my opinion, a hiatus from technology (excepting this blog, of course! 😉 ) can save you from unnecessary pain and force you to interact with human beings who, when chosen wisely, will love and support you when you most need it.

So how do you keep up with the world but avoid the news and commercials you don’t need to see? Comment below with your stories or tips, and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Barren among the Fruitful and a “Be Hopeful” necklace!

Mother’s Day and the "Barren" Woman

I genuinely enjoy Mother’s Day because it reminds me to slow down and honor my mother and other women who have poured their love into my life.

But I will be among the first to admit that the second Sunday in May is pretty miserable when you aren’t getting to parent the little one(s) you desperately want in your life. All around you are flower arrangements, family brunches, and emotional commercials for long distance phone service greeting cards–but none of that is for you.

Maybe you’ve lost a child, miscarried a baby, or been unable to conceive. Maybe you aren’t married yet. I know I have friends who look at my life and think–as Ted Mosby does–

The truth is, I thought I’d be married by now and going through all this stuff alongside you guys. But even if I meet the [person] of my dreams right this second, I’m still one night and nine months away from having a family of my own. [Kourtney Kang, “The Stinson Missile Crisis,” How I Met Your Mother, season 7, episode 4, directed by Pamela Fryman, aired October 3, 2011 (Netflix).]

A lot of women–married and single–would rather not get out of bed on Mother’s Day. (The same goes for men, but we’ll talk about them in June!)

This year I want to enjoy time with my mama and mother-in-law, and not allow myself to be wounded by well-meaning ministers or money-grubbing card makers. So I am writing “Mother’s Day Survival: a 5-part Series for the ‘Barren’ Woman” that I’ll post online next week. Each day I’ll highlight a common Mother’s Day tradition that I’ve found painful in the past. I hope you will then comment about the post, explaining how you reacted to any pain and longing induced by that tradition in your life.

To encourage your comments, I’m also doing a giveaway next week! For every day you comment on a post, you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Barren among the Fruitful and a “Be Hopeful” necklace.

Let’s work together not only to survive but to thrive this Mother’s Day!

Fast-Forwarding to Mother’s Day

My calendar can’t possibly be correct: is it the end of April already?

Since my last post we’ve moved across the country (again), bought a 1916 Foursquare in a “transitional” downtown neighborhood, watched bath water rain from the coffers in the dining room, and cut a hole in a master-bedroom wall. All with a basset hound puppy (sometimes literally) underfoot.

Life seems to be approaching equilibrium. After 3 months Chattanooga is less mysterious, there is drywall on our dining room ceiling, and Copper is nearly house trained. What seemed scary has become good: we love our co-ed and senior-adult neighbors, destruction has given way to renovation, and Copper is nearly house trained. It is time that I stop spending my days in crisis-response mode and return to writing.

I do so none-too-soon. Forgetting for the moment that backlog of books I have to write, my May calendar is full of Barren-related guest blog posts, radio interviews, and Facebook page hosting. I’m even doing a couple of giveaways. Though no one has said, “We want to talk to you now because it’s close to Mother’s Day,” I know the holiday is the impetus for at least 2 interviews. That makes me nervous.

In the last few years, I’ve read many blogs and articles that blast Mother’s Day. They like to highlight all the ways the day and its celebrations in church hurt women who struggle to be mothers or have lost a child. While I certainly agree that Mother’s Day can inflame fertility wounds and I freely admit to ditching church services on several second-Sundays in May, I am not and have never been anti–Mother’s Day.

Why? Because on Mother’s Day I honor my mother (and do my best not to think about myself).

When I was growing up, Mother’s Day was a big deal. It was the second-most-attended church service of the year (after Easter but before Christmas!), and it was one of the few Sundays my family went out for lunch instead of going home to sandwiches. When we’d get to church, the children would be drafted to pass out carnations to all the moms: white for moms whose own mothers had died, red for the mothers whose mothers were living, and yellow for the mothers who had lost children. It was easy to know who got what because all the moms were already wearing white, red, or yellow corsages when they got to church.

As an adult I’ve enjoyed buying my mother’s–and eventually my mother-in-law’s–corsages. Roses and carnations are the traditional flower choice, but I like to shake it up. Gardenias, irises, daisies, and even orchids have decorated my mother’s dresses over the years. Sometimes I’ve made the corsage; sometimes I’ve bought one.

About five years ago, we realized my mom was the only woman at her church who still wore a flower on Mother’s Day. Every year I ask if she still wants me to get her one, and every year she says yes! She says that she loves telling everyone how her daughter bought (or made) that corsage just for her. And I love doing it.

So in the coming weeks when I’m asked to talk or write about how Mother’s Day makes me feel and I admit that no holiday does more to remind me of my fleshly desires and wounds, I’ll do my best to remember the woman who gave me life. She deserves no less celebration for the years she sacrificed to raising me just because my own dreams of motherhood have not been achieved. In fact, she deserves more because of the extra love she’s showered on me during my years of pain and miscarriage.

Keep reading Healthy and Hopeful in May for “Mother’s Day Survival Tips for the ‘Barren’ Woman” and a great book-necklace giveaway!

A Simply "Divine" Interview

While I’m consumed with unpacking and organizing for the next few days, read this interview I did with Kathy Harris for her blog, Divine Detour. I’ll be back soon with lots of “healthy” posts for you. This old house and the new puppy are giving me tons of ideas!

What started you on your writing journey?

David and I were in and out of fertility clinics for seven years. During most of that time we kept our pain a secret, but as we started to tell others about our struggles, I became a lightning rod for women facing infertility themselves. In July 2012, two friends confessed to me the same tragedy within eight hours of each other; both had miscarriages the previous day and both were eight weeks pregnant at the time.

I called David from the quiet of my home office where I was editing part of The Voice Bible translation. I was disturbed. Shaking. Crying. Confused. Overreacting! But my David was patient with me and asked me the strangest question, “If you were to write a book about all this, what would you say?” I spent the next thirty to forty-five minutes writing. I left my office exhausted and crashed on the couch for a four-hour nap.

I was awakened from a very deep sleep by a publisher at Thomas Nelson calling to ask me about a ghostwriting project. During our “small talk,” I told him what had happened to our mutual friends and how upset I was that morning. He asked, “Would you be interested in writing a book about infertility?” Only then did I tell him about my crazy forty-five minutes and the outline sitting on my desk at that moment. His exact words are burned in my memory, “Polish it up, and send it to me by Friday.” I think I sent it to him by the next hour! That conversation led to me becoming part of the InScribed authors’ community.

Just as all good novels include a plot twist, our Author and Creator often writes a twist or two into our lives—some that ultimately bless us more than our original plan. Have you ever experienced such a “Divine Detour”?

Way back in 2002, my best friend dreamed I was an archaeologist in Israel and a mother of four children. She told me about David arriving at my dig site fresh off a plane—gathering our daughter in his arms, kissing me, and corralling our three unruly redheaded boys. It was the life I wanted and almost expected to have.

The many years David and I spent failing to deliver babies changed us not because we didn’t get what we wanted, but because we learned (the hard way!) to trust God’s plan for our lives. This was even when it is contrary to our own plans.

Since we accepted that children are not in our future, David and I have moved across the country twice. David is always flying somewhere for work, and I tag along since all I need to do my work is a laptop. We are constantly meeting new people, and we are thankful that we can send our meager resources outside of our family as He leads us to do. None of that would be possible if we had little ones at home.

Let’s talk about Barren among the Fruitful: Navigating Infertility with Hope, Wisdom, and Patience (Thomas Nelson, October 2014). Please tell us about it.

During my seven-year journey with infertility and miscarriage, I needed three things; information, companionship, and faith. None of these were fully addressed by the publishing world, whose few books on infertility focused on either secular “miracle cures” or religious “faith journeys.” Both types left me feeling physically broken and spiritually disconnected because the so-called miracles didn’t cure anything and the devotionals only highlighted my latent fear that I was an unfaithful daughter of God whom He found lacking.

I wrote Barren among the Fruitful primarily for women in their childbearing years, understanding that most of those readers are as I was, emotionally vulnerable and in need of strength and love. The book strives to surround the reader with a sense of community while providing honest facts. It does not promise that medicine will give her a child or that God will give her a child. It does lead her from confusion about infertility to understanding. From embarrassment over her perceived failure to openness. And most importantly, from the now-broken faith she has in herself to a perfect faith in God’s plan for her future.

But Barren is also for those who interact with infertility patients and that’s everyone. Infertility is on the rise and many doctors are anecdotally suggesting it will reach epidemic levels (over 40%) among young women in the next ten years. I like to think I’ve created a survey of the topic that quickly educates readers about the physical, financial, psychological, and spiritual struggles that accompany fertility treatment. Each chapter is titled with an off-the-cuff, sometimes hurtful, and often ridiculous comment I heard during my fertility journey, so readers can learn what to say (and what not to say!) to their hurting friends. It also includes the unique stories of multiple women, providing readers with a renewed hope for God’s plan for their future—with or without children.

A few fun questions…

When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?

I try to be really conscious of the foods I put in my mouth and body. I avoid all things artificial and super-processed, including the syrups cafes put in their flavored lattes. I typically take my coffee black. But Starbucks had a new item on their menus this past holiday season that has given me a crisis of conscience. The Chestnut Praline Latte (with an extra shot of espresso, thank you very much) is perfection. At the end of January, I’m still approaching the drive-thru speaker once a week and timidly asking, “Do you have the chestnut-praline syrup?” Bad, Amanda. Bad!

If you knew you couldn’t fail, what dream would you pursue?

While I was in grad school, my cell phone ringtone was the theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Yes, it’s a cliche, but every archaeologist wants to be Indiana Jones. I’m no different. My graduate degree is concentrated in biblical archaeology, and few times in my life have I been as happy as I was when sitting in a huge hole in Israel dusting dust off of dust. I would love to make archaeology my career, spending three months of the summer in the field and the rest of the year in a museum analyzing my finds. Real archaeologists never have Indiana Jones moments. We get over-the-moon excited when we find bichrome pottery in what we thought was a monochrome stratus, but we all dream of one day snatching our rimmed hats away from the traps of dangerous Nazi ark hunters!

What Bible passage or story best describes your journey of faith?

The most inspiring woman in the Bible, to me, is granted three verses of Scripture. Anna was the wife of a temple priest and she did not have children. She went to the temple courtyard every day and she prayed. Because of her faithfulness, God promised she’d see the Christ child before she died. At eighty-six, Anna was doing her habitual morning prayer when Mary and Joseph walked in with eight-day-old Jesus.

Anna’s story is in the gospel because she identified Jesus as the Messiah. The fact that she was childless is ancillary. I wish I knew more about her. I wish I knew how she survived month after month of disappointment. I wonder if she was ever pregnant. Did she have a miscarriage? Did she have a baby and then lose him or her to illness? Anna teaches us something very important. Her three verses of scripture prove that a child is not a reward for a woman’s faithfulness to God. Meeting God face-to-face is the reward.

I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.

When I was six years old, Daddy let me pick out a puppy from a litter of thirteen Basset Hounds. We named her Sofi, and she was all Basset: stubborn, silly, and not-all-that brilliant. She died when I was in college and I cried an entire day. Since then, I’ve always wanted another dog but my husband of twelve years resisted . . . until about two months ago. We will be picking up our first puppy on January 31st. He’s a Basset Hound, too, and we’ll call him Copper. Based on the short videos the breeder has been sending each week, we’re bringing home a lazy guy who loves to chew chew chew! . . . on those rare occassions when he’s awake.

Thanks, Amanda! It’s great having you as a guest at DivineDetour.

New Year, New Commitment…to Healthy Relationships

With my big sis, little sis, and grand-little sis (on the day I got engaged to
David, incidentally!)

Little known fact: I am a sorority alumna. I wasn’t your stereotypical sorority girl, however. I got super-involved in the Panhellenic (governing) side of Greek life, and I am so thankful for the leadership skills I developed. I got to have regular meetings with university administration (which was great), and I was the one who got the 3 a.m. phone call from the hospital when an Animal House-er had alcohol poisoning (which was not-so-great).

It’s those Animal House moments that Greeks are famous for, and that’s a shame. Most of the women and men I knew in the Greek system were doggedly committed to philanthropy. My sorority was constantly hosting fundraisers for the American Juvenile Arthritis Foundation, donating platelets at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and giving time to countless Memphis charities.

Philanthropy was part of my life. And then I graduated.

How many of us adults leave the heavy lifting of helping others to college students, children’s organizations (e.g. Girls Scouts and schools), or the government? How many of us think our tax dollars and tithe money exempt us from “doing what is good and right before our Lord”?

Make no mistake: God can’t be mocked. What you give is what you get. What you sow, you harvest. Those who sow seeds into their flesh will only harvest destruction from their sinful nature. But those who sow seeds into the Spirit shall harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. May we never tire of doing what is good and right before our Lord because in His season we shall bring in a great harvest if we can just persist. So seize any opportunity the Lord gives you to do good things and be a blessing to everyone, especially those within our faithful family (Galatians 6:7-10, The Voice).

Excepting his closing remarks, Paul ends his letter to the Galatian Christians by reminding them that “we reap where we sow.” If a Christian spends all of her time and resources achieving her selfish desires, then her life will yield sin. But if she invests time and resources “doing what is good and right before our Lord,” then she will be a part of God’s plan that “harvest(s) everlasting life from the Spirit” in those around her.

Monday night I was invited to and attended a meeting of Chattanooga’s Junior League. I’m sure some people call it an overgrown sorority and assume it’s a bunch of wealthy women comparing the lengths of their pearl strands. Those people could not be more wrong.

All the Junior League does is raise money for various charities in their community. These women dedicate tons of time (and not necessarily money) to fund special projects in public classrooms, eliminate food deserts in low-income areas, and educate children about nutrition.

Do they have fun running the marathons, organizing the Christmas home tours, and publishing the cookbooks that raise that money? Yep! Do they enjoy watching their labors produce smarter and healthier communities? You know it! And do the many Christians in their ranks thank God for the opportunity to “do good and be a blessing to everyone,” in the nonChristian neighborhoods where they work and where His grace is so badly needed?

Absolutely.

This new year, let’s not forget the joy of giving that characterizes the Christmas season. Let’s do ourselves a favor and put action behind our dollars. Serve in the nursery of the church where you tithe. Help collect and deliver resources for those affected by the next natural disaster. Become a Big Sister to a child living in government housing.

Let’s put faces to the names of the hungry and hurting. Hopefully we’ll see those faces again when we enter into the everlasting life granted by His grace.