I feel so inadequate to introduce these writers. Each of these ladies have been traveled a difficult journey, but God is God and He is good and they have each learned this.
This next letter, from Amanda, is so beautiful! Please pray for Amanda and her husband as they minister in China. Also, please continue to share this letter, so others are encouraged and God gets the glory. -
Rejoicing in the Present
“When Dreams Don’t Come True”
Ever since I was a little girl I dreamed of being a Mom. Feeding, rocking, and kissing my dollies, being a mommy seemed like the best job in the world. I wanted to grow up, marry my prince and have babies. My dream wasn’t that different from so many other girls I knew. Being the second oldest in a family of eight gave me lots of practice, even earning me the nickname ‘Little Mama’, as I always had a baby perched on my hip. Fast-forward to high school where I babysat nonstop and my love for children grew while I blossomed into a young woman.
In 2005 I graduated from high school, started Bible College and met my prince charming, Zach Heaberlin. We began dating during the second semester of our freshman year and I was smitten. In August 2007 we said our vows and declared our love for one another. I was 20 and he was 22; it seemed as if I was living the fairy tale I always dreamed of. We both graduated from college in 2009 and the Lord opened the door for us to work in a church in South Carolina. Two years later, after taking a mission trip to Asia, the door opened to move and minister in China. When I turned 25, we’d been in China for almost a year, and, as our five year anniversary approached, baby-fever hit hard! After some discussion, we came up with a “plan” for getting pregnant. Yet while we had one plan, God had a much different one.
Near the end of August I began to experience some fatigue. My afternoon running was soon out of the question and I noticed some bruising on my body. These symptoms began to worsen and one weekend I laid in bed with a high fever and thought that I must have a severe case of the flu. September 18th, 2012, was a day I’ll never forget. I passed out on the sidewalk in Guangzhou, China. Twelve hours later, after being rushed to the hospital, I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and given 6 weeks to live if I didn’t start aggressive treatment. Just weeks before being diagnosed with my leukemia I was reading about Paul’s life and I came across Philippians 4:11, “Not that I speak in respect of want, for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” As soon as I heard my diagnosis the Lord immediately brought this verse back to my mind and my Heavenly Father gave me great contentment. We flew back to America and I was told I needed to start chemotherapy right away. Two fears immediately surfaced--that I would lose my hair and that I wouldn’t be able to have children. We moved into the hospital and my first fear quickly came to fruition. Although many tears were shed over my hair, God gave me great contentment and I soon sported the ‘bald is beautiful’ look. My second fear was not so easily dispelled but it was something I couldn’t dwell on because at that point I needed to focus on getting well. The doctors were not sure how this type of medicine would affect fertility because not many people my age were diagnosed with acute leukemia. I had to put this in God’s hands, knowing Zach and I had a greater job of sharing Him with countless doctors, nurses and patients as we then lived in the hospital.
In May of 2013 I had my final bone biopsy and on the 14th we learned I was cancer-free – I was in remission! It is the point every cancer patient longs to get to, that moment you desperately wait to hear. Now that I was cancer-free plans were made for when we would move, when Zach could get back to work….life could finally begin returning to normal. I was elated to be “healthy”. Yet something wasn’t quite right. I told you the two biggest concerns I faced were losing my hair and not being able to have children. Now that I was cancer free, becoming a mom was all I could think about. Babies consumed my thoughts. Unfortunately, the rate of relapse for leukemia is highest in the first 18 months to two years of remission. The Dr. cautioned in waiting to conceive, because if I became pregnant and relapsed, it would probably be my life or the baby’s life. Summer months passed, as well as my monthly doctor visits, and soon it turned to fall. Once again I wanted contentment in this area but I didn’t have it. The Lord gave us great grace during my cancer and I never questioned this as we saw Him work so much good through this time. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” But this time it was different--it felt harder….some nights I cried myself to sleep as my arms ached for a child. To make matters worse, friend after friend announced they were expecting. The baby pictures on Facebook drove me crazy! Honestly, my heart was breaking. The cancer was gone, yet it still had a hold on me. My husband comforted me and held me but my pain was still there. Please understand that during these months I cried out to God like never before. My pain was raw and the wound was exposed. Sometimes it would seem to start healing when something else would rip it wide open. Although 2013 brought me into remission, it also brought along the feeling that my dream of being a mother would never come true.
During December the Lord really began healing my hurt. I’d been healed from my disease many months before but the rest of me was still quite broken. That month, I was able to speak to my nurse and I discovered that nine out of twelve leukemia patients admitted during my time as a patient had passed away. God’s sweet quiet voice whispered in my ear, “Amanda, you’ve grieved for the past six months for the life of a child, yet I’ve spared your life. Can’t you rejoice in that? Can you be content with the life I’ve given you as these others are no longer on this earth?” I was convicted of my sin and content again for the time being when suddenly the “one year” mark was up and we began trying to conceive. I remember how excited I was that first month, only to be crushed when my cycle started. Month after month went by and nothing happened. “Time,” everyone said, “it takes time for these things to happen.” One year passed and we visited a fertility specialist. In a way, I hoped they would find something wrong so that the problem could be fixed. Yet, after months of testing, we were told we had “unexplained infertility” and there was little they could do. I remember feeling as if my dreams of becoming a mother were slipping away. I read the Psalms so often during my devotions as I could relate to David pouring out his heart during his time of trouble. I wrote the following words in my journal:
“Any time I read the Psalms I feel as if I can relate to the words penned by David. The words seem to be written to me for this trial of life I am in right now. The problem is not know how long the Lord will allow these barren days to continue. Next month he could allow us to become pregnant or start the process of adopting. But this could also not happen – the problem is not knowing if it WILL happen. Psalm 25:1-6, ‘Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. O my God, I trust in thee: let me be not ashamed, let not mine enemies’ triumph over me. Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause. Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait.’ Help me remember, on THEE do I wait.”
I cannot begin to tell you how many times the Lord has given me exactly what I needed on days I was discouraged. At the beginning of the year my husband and I began to seriously talk of adopting, specifically an international adoption, as we are missionaries in China. After allowing hopes to build we began to get excited about adopting from the country we are serving in, only to have this dream dashed. You see, once you have a history of cancer, you are disqualified to adopt from almost any country other than America. My devastation upon learning this was sickening. Another dream crushed.
It’s been four years and my dreams still have not came true. Cancer put my dream on hold and infertility has tried to crush it for the past two years. I can’t even begin to tell you all the tears that have been shed as we’ve asked the Lord for a child. I’ve dealt with anger, envy, sadness, and fear, yet the Lord has helped me to overcome each of these sins, as they are not attributes of His children. That doesn’t mean I still don’t have daily struggles though, because I’m still human after all.
So what do you do when dreams don’t come true? As I began writing my story, I didn’t know exactly what I would say. Rejoicing-in-the-Present asked me to contribute in February and I remember hoping that I would be pregnant at this time to give this a happily-ever-after ending, but that wasn’t the case. Why have I shared all of this? I told the Lord when I was diagnosed with leukemia that I would use my story to glorify Him, and I feel much the same about dealing with infertility. Honestly, dealing with cancer was not nearly as hard as dealing with the trial we have faced afterwards. Yet, in spite of all we have been through, God is still good.
When dreams don’t come true, you cling to the Lord; you cling in a way you don’t cling when you are sitting on the mountaintop. I know I’m not the only one dealing with a difficult situation. I also know that it’s only through the Lord that I’ve been given the comfort, grace, and strength to deal with infertility. Spending time with the Him comforts me like nothing else can, and reading of the trials that others have dealt with reminds me that I’m not alone. Meditating on the miracles Jesus performed strengthens my faith.
Early in our journey to have children, I began to read I Samuel 1. Countless times have I read Hannah’s story and related it to my own. The Lord showed me: Hannah’s problem, (She had no children, her adversary provoked her, and the Lord shut her womb.) Hannah’s prayer, (She prayed quietly while she poured out her soul to the Lord.) and Hannah’s praise. (The Lord remembered her and she was given the desire of her heart.) Relating to a Bible character gave me much encouragement as I read and studied her story. It gives such hope that even though the Lord had shut Hannah’s womb (v. 5), He later remembered her (v. 19), and gave her the desire of her heart.
To the wonderful mother reading this, please be sensitive to those ladies without children. Infertility & miscarriages aren’t exactly dinner table topics. Someone may be dealing with this privately and grieving alone. Comments such as, “Isn’t it time you had a baby?” or “Don’t you want kids?” often feel like a knife to the chest when this is what we want more than anything. Mother’s Day, baby showers, and baby dedications are especially sensitive occasions. I yearn to shower others with love and affection but sometimes my heart is too heavy. I’m not sharing this to make you feel guilty over your children, but rather to give a bit of insight from someone who has hurt and struggled on these days. If you know someone who has or is dealing with infertility, miscarriage, or a failed adoption, a hug or simple card can go a long way.
Real life is not a fairytale. No one is guaranteed the perfect “happily ever after”. I’m okay with that. Allowing the Lord to write my story will be so much more beautiful in the end, even if it is a "hot mess" in between. When I stop and truly think about my life, my greatest dream came true when I accepted Christ as my Savior and He forgave me of all my sins. Christ shedding His blood for you and me was and is the most beautiful gift ever given. While I pray daily for the Lord to give us a child and allow our dreams to come true I know the Lord is in control and I can trust Him no matter what happens.