I turned 39 on April 26. Wow! I used to think 39 was old! Not anymore. Some friends of mine asked if I had a 40 Before 40 list. Not sure where I’ve been, but I hadn’t heard of that before. So I hadn’t been thinking about it, and I didn’t have a list. (Now I’ve heard that 30 before 30 is a thing too).
Working on a list like that requires thinking about things that are really important, things you really want to do, your biggest dreams, what matters most. Which kind of goes along with how I’ve been a little obsessed with the concept of legacy lately. Partly because we took Dave Ramsey’s Legacy Journey class – the 2nd part of Financial Peace University – a great class. And partly because I’ve recently read a few books about women without children – their reasons, their experiences, their stories.
I know – I sound a little young to be obsessed with my legacy. But the more comfortable I’ve become with embracing Plan C, the more I’ve thought about – what does this mean for the rest of my life? It seems like if you have children, they are part of the natural progression of your legacy. Of course someone will care about your scrapbooks, your stories, your historic possessions, your life. But what if you don’t have children? Who carries on your legacy? What does that mean? And is it really even important?
Which led me to the book of Ecclesiastes – such a great book. The author struggles with the meaninglessness of life and comes to some great conclusions about walking with God and living life.
“I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.” Ecc. 3:14
“Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him – for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work – this is a gift of God.” Ecc. 5:18-19
“So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.” Ecc. 8:15
“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecc. 12:13
Fear God. (as in Revere) Enjoy Life. What God does lasts forever. I’ve realized – My legacy is now! While I live. What matters is what I share now. While I live. It doesn’t matter if anyone reads anything or knows me after I’m gone. I don’t have to worry about whether anyone will remember me in 100 years – they won’t! But everything that God does and is doing in my life will endure forever.
So here and now in my 40th year, I know what I want to do! I want to write more, paint more, and spend more time with friends and family – especially my nieces and nephews. I want to get up to 40 blog posts. (I’m at 35 now – so 5 more shouldn’t be too hard.) I’m going for 40 art lessons and/or paintings. I have a goal of 40 dates with my nieces and nephews. And I’m going to select my 40 favorite Bible passages. (Maybe memorize – we’ll see – I do need to keep challenging my brain. I’ve heard it goes downhill from here.) I also plan to use my 40th birthday as an excuse to get as many people as possible to travel with me this year and next!
Fear God. Enjoy Life. Goes right along with Love God. Love Others. Sounds good to me.
“Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do.” Ecc. 9:7
3 Years Later…
Yesterday was the 3 year anniversary of starting this blog. I can’t believe it’s been 3 years. And I still can’t believe the peace and contentment and joy we feel. When I started the blog, I had no idea how the story would end. I just knew that God was calling me to write. So…
3 Years Later…
…We are ok. It all turned out ok. Better than ok. We are happy. Living a life we never expected. Embracing a plan that was so much better than ours.
…We are more sure than ever that God has called us to love on the children that are in our lives – as counselors, as Aunt Carrie and Uncle Patrick, as godparents, and as friends. We are so fulfilled. And we know that we can trust Him to fulfill us with the relationships in our lives from this point forward.
…We are closer than ever. Research shows 1 out 6 couples experience infertility. Of those who remain childless at the end, 50% of relationships do not make it through the grief and difficulty of infertility. “Couples that do stay together, however, become very close.” (Hammer-Burns study referenced in the book Women Without Children by Susan S. Lang) Our marriage weathered the storm and came out stronger, closer, sweeter.
…We get to pour out this healing and hope every day. Grief deepened us. It changed us. God comforted us so we can comfort others. We get to share the benefits of this compassion every single day.
…And then we thoroughly enjoy our weekends! Camping, traveling, spending time with friends and family. Patrick is gardening, doing triathlons, playing guitar. I am painting, taking art classes, reading, writing.
3 years later… life is good! I can’t tell the story enough. I just can’t stop. It’s God’s story. He did a miracle in our hearts. For his glory. He is faithful. We can trust Him. You can trust Him. Always. He is trustworthy and good. Even through the deepest valleys and darkest trials. I don’t think I can ever stop telling this story!
Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.
I just realized that my last post was in January! I had no idea it had been that long! I have briefly thought of several potential blog posts throughout this year, but really have just been too busy enjoying life to sit down and write them out. Which is such a blessing! Considering where I was when I started this blog. And why I can’t help but write today – my heart is so full of joy and praise – if I don’t praise Him, the rocks are going to cry out! (Luke 19:37-40) So here are the brief versions of the posts that could have been. And of course – the 2013 Henry Family Outtakes!
C is for Counseling – I can’t believe how much I love my job - a career I never planned on having. I’m amazed as I look back on how God has orchestrated everything I’ve been through in my life, even my temperament and personality, to use me this way. Throughout the year, I have completed a lot of extra training in eating disorders and am really enjoying working in this area. And I can’t believe I get to work in private practice. I love working at Oaks! I often tell people I feel retired – after working at an agency for so long, working 4 days a week with much less paperwork feels like retirement!
C is for Create – Speaking of my extra free time and energy, I have continued my love for pictures and have enjoyed making digital scrapbooks for several family members – especially celebrating my brother Luke’s wedding and our new niece Blythe. I even did some painting. I definitely should write a whole post on the process of painting for me – but for now here’s one painting I worked on for my office. Counseling is wonderful and rewarding but also very draining, so I’m thankful for this very needed recharge time.
C is for Color – Speaking of painting, my art instructors have worked very hard to get me to add some color to my life. For years I’ve said that my favorite color is brown. And I really do love brown. But recently I realized that my entire wardrobe was neutral (and black – it’s just so practical) and that most of my house had become neutral. I don’t think I had noticed how gradually colorless my life had become while I was grieving and depressed. I now have some new favorite colors!! Turquoise, mustardy yellow, and Kelli green (not the real kelly green – but the kind of green my friend Kelli loves – a warm kermity green.) How fun to have some color back in my life!
C is for Camping – Of course! We got Patrick’s dad’s pop-up camper this year and really enjoyed some camping trips!! Our nieces and nephews love the camper!
C is for Colorado – Again! My sister and I took another trip to beautiful Colorado this summer. Patrick and I will be going there for Christmas to see his family.
C is for Community – We have really enjoyed our very dear friends in our very small community group from church this year!
C is for Ironman – Ok, not really – but it was so cool to watch Patrick become an Ironman in November!
C is for Comfort – “Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you who have done great things. Who, O God, is like you? Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.” Psalm 71:19-21
C is for Celebrate – We celebrated our 10 year anniversary in Jamaica this summer. If you would have told me 10 years ago, that I would have no children at the time of my 10 year anniversary, I just could not have fathomed it. Much less if you’d told me that I would also have a full life and be full of peace and joy. So we celebrate! Healing and life and love – beauty and fullness of joy! We are grateful.
Love to all of our friends and family. Merry Christmas!!
How do you know when you have arrived? When you are there? Seems like we spend a lot of our lives working towards getting there, feeling like we’re not there, thinking things won’t be good enough until we are there, thinking life would be so much better if we were there already. How do you know when you get there? And where is there?
I think “there” is the state of contentment. It’s realizing that maybe we already are there, that we already have it all – all the things we really need to feel happy and full. Wikipedia says it’s the “acknowledgement and satisfaction of reaching capacity.” That’s what we’re looking for. That feeling of fulness. Of satisfaction. Like we have arrived.
But will we ever get there? Contentment seems so elusive, like such a hard thing to obtain. It never seems to stay around for very long. I could say I’ve felt periods of contentment lots of times throughout my life, even content with certain parts of my life despite others most of the time, but complete contentment? Is that really possible in this life? Will I ever be like the apostle Paul and hold onto contentment in all circumstances? He says the secret of being content is doing all things through Christ’s strength. How does that interact with desire? God gives us desires as well. Desire is something you feel when you don’t have something you want. What about in times of grief? God created the grief process too. Are you supposed to be content in grief?
As I reflected over the past year and look forward to a new year, the word content kept coming to mind. I really feel content right now. And I’m trying to wrap my mind around it. It feels really nice. I want to hold on to it. I want to bottle it up like an elixir and save it for the next time I’m feeling discontent. I wonder – how long will it last this time? Am I more content because I’m getting older and wiser? :) Does it get easier and last longer with maturity? I definitely think age and life experience help – as long as you keep growing – it’s certainly possible to be old and immature and discontent. Or is it because I’m so acutely aware of the feeling of peace due to a long long journey of grief?
I really think my current state of contentment has a lot to do with grief. I believe that if it enters your life and if you let it, grief can be an avenue towards contentment. I keep feeling so amazed at how much I am loving my job, loving my life, loving plan C. I feel overwhelmed as I remember the depth of grief I went through and ponder the heights of the benefits I can see now. I just can’t believe we went through something so life altering – an entirely different plan for our lives than we had – and we feel content. I feel like I keep trying, but still can’t comprehend it or really put it into words.
Peter Scazzero, in The Emotionally Healthy Church, talks about how the brokenness of grief can change a person. His explanation has helped make some sense of what has happened in me. “Grieving our losses transforms us in remarkable ways that make the process worthwhile. Layers of our counterfeit are shed. Something truer – that is, Christ in and through us – slowly emerges. New possibilities become possible – for us and for all those we touch with our lives.” He says it gives us “a greater capacity to wait on God and surrender to his will. Grieving breaks something in our fearful self-will that wants to run the universe for God.” He says it liberates us from having to impress others and focusing on the things of this world. It strips away so many unimportant things in life and leaves a desire to just make room for the most important things. Out of the painful struggle comes a growing strength and a greater willingness to take risks. I have to say I absolutely agree with every bit of this. Scazzero ends with saying grief leaves us “more at home with ourselves and with God”. Now that sounds like contentment.
Contentment brings a deeper appreciation for the wonder of life itself – the beauty of creation and the blessing of relationships. There are certainly many paths to contentment. Grief is just one of them. Choosing thankfulness is another. The practice of simplicity another. And the secret is doing everything through Christ who strengthens us. May we all strive to focus more on the important things, less on ourselves and the things of this world – and live in the beauty and peace of contentment. Maybe some day we can say like Paul:
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13
Can I say that out loud? Can I say that God has shown me over and over throughout this process that He is doing some things in this just for me? I’m not saying that it’s all about me or that this journey stops with me, but God keeps showing me that I’m a really important part of this story. And that I can accept that some of this he has done just for me.
For a long time in my adulthood (can’t believe I just used that word), a lot of the things I would learn, I would do so with the focus of being able to pass this along to my children. Learn more and more about relationships so I could be the perfect parent. Or do my own work, so I wouldn’t pass on my baggage to my children. Or get some things done before I had kids, so I could have more time with them and their lives could be more perfect. I would even buy kid books with my allowance thinking that I probably wouldn’t have extra money to spend once I had kids, so I should get them some great books now. Even before I had kids, I was trying to focus on the kids! As I’ve said before, I had no idea how much I just wanted to skip over me and focus on my kids. A lot of my struggle throughout this process is the struggle I have had to work on me, accept me, look at me, deal with me.
In some ways, my life is about me! My body, my voice, my time and place on earth. My life really is about what I do with me. What God wants to do with me. I have to take responsibility for all of me. Own me.
And God keeps telling me that I’m just as important as my kids would have been. That the things He has been teaching me can be just for me and don’t only have value if I pass them on to kids. That maybe He chose not to give me kids so I could learn how to be a kid? So I could learn how to be free again, enjoy life, have childlike faith, get off this performance treadmill I was on. Just because I am His child, adored, loved, delighted in, chosen.
The greatest part is that it’s still not all about me. I had to work on accepting myself as God’s vessel, so we could get back to Him using me. My life is a small blip in time in a small part of the world. But in a tiny way and at the same time a huge way, my life is about what God can only do in me. I’m the only one of me there will ever be. I’m the only one that can tell my story. I’m the only one that He can shine through in this specific way. There is a unique part of me that reflects a unique part of Him since I’m made in His image. There’s something unique about His image that He created me to reveal Himself through. Wow! What a glimpse into how infinite and extensive and global His image is! It’s not even remotely minutely close to being all about me. But it is about my small part.
The glory of my story does not just come on me and stop with me. It wasn’t meant to be all about me. It was never meant to stop with me. But it was meant to go through me, specifically me, only me – then back to Him and out into the world.
The same is true for you!
If perfect weather is predicted for a free weekend in the spring or fall, the Henrys are going camping! We love to get out and really enjoy the weather while it lasts. I’m definitely a fair weather camper. I don’t go when it’s too hot or too cold. So it’s a special treat when good weather falls on a free weekend. We take advantage of it, pack up our gear and the dogs – and take off! We love the adventure. Sometimes we go with close friends or family. Most of the time we like to go by ourselves. We are both introverts who love people and work with people. So we have to get away to recharge, to retreat, to get refreshed. To unplug. Sometimes we go hiking or canoeing. Sometimes Patrick goes fishing while I read, write, draw or take pictures. We do a lot of sitting and thinking. Some talking. A lot of soaking in nature. A lot of staring at the fire. A lot of listening…as nature speaks of the amazing details and beauty of God’s creation. …As God speaks of stillness, regeneration, growth. Of peace. Of seasons. Of life.
One of our favorite camping spots is near the White River. The very tall pine trees in this campground provide lots of shade and a wonderful pine scent. We snatched up the chance to get out this past weekend. Here are a few pictures of the campsite and my attempts at camping family photos!
…on Facebook. I know I’m not the only one that has a love/hate relationship with FB. I love connecting with people – old friends, new friends, family. I love it when people post funny stories. I love seeing pictures of what people are up to, places they’re going, kids growing. I love how easy it is to send someone a message when I don’t have their email address. But sometimes I hate it. Hate that I waste time on it. Hate farmville requests. Hate that I sometimes feel sad when I look at pictures of everyone else’s kids. Hate that I start comparing myself to others. Hate that I compare “likes” on an infertility blog post to “likes” on a pregnancy announcement. (You know you keep track of your “likes” too.) Hate that it brings up my need for approval and acceptance. We all have a need for acceptance, but I hate that it crosses over to comparison, discontent, and seeking the approval of man. I hate that it brings up that I still care about what others think of me. I hate that I’ve struggled with whether to share my blog posts on FB or not. So here are the reasons to and not to share.
Reasons Not to Share: The main reason is pride. And shame. Which is a form of pride. My blog is very personal. The only way I know how to write is in a very real, raw way. Which puts me in a vulnerable place. So I’ve used that as my primary excuse. Which was protective and a good reason for a long time. But now that I’m in a much more healed place, I avoid out of a fear of judgment. I’m afraid that some people still think that there’s something wrong with us, that we didn’t pray hard enough, should be adopting etc. Mostly I don’t want others to know that I care, that it was painful, that it hurt, that I hurt. More pride. More fear. More shame.
Reasons To Share: God called me to start a blog. This story is not just about me. This is not just for me. And now that God has brought so much healing and freedom, He wants me to share it. He has brought beauty from ashes. What better place to share that the gospel of Christ is about brokenness and healing, barrenness and redemption, pain and peace. I’m just a vessel. I’m called to be a witness, to testify to God’s deep love and grace. I’ve been through the valley and have come out on the mountain top. It really is a miracle. God has changed me through this. I can’t be silent anymore. I have to put myself out there and share it now. I have to proclaim what the Lord has done. I have to shout it from the rooftops. I just can’t say it enough. This is why I write. There’s just no good reason not to share now. It doesn’t have to perfect. I’m not perfect. My life has not been perfect. People don’t have to “like” it. I don’t always like it. But it’s real. And I love that. I love that it’s so real. That’s what we need more of these days. On Facebook too.
Ok – To Share wins.