How has it been one year already? After fourteen years and ten million prayers, on March 1, 2017, my first traditionally published book, When God Says, “Wait,” made its way into the world!
By the grace of God, through the hard work of the amazing team at Barbour Publishing, and with the help of wonderful friends and family and fellow book-loving believers, WGSW has sold 12,000 books in its first year! (If this were a text message, here’s the part where we would add in Praise Hands and that shocked-looking emoji with the google eyes.) I can’t tell you how grateful I am to all who have helped this little book along its way. Thank you for the prayers, the reviews, the kind words, and all the ways you have shared this book with your friends and family. It all means more than you will ever know.
On May 1, WGSW will become a “big sister” to a follow-up book, When God Says, “Go.” These two little book babies, like my first two children, will be born 14 months apart! (Time for more Praise Hands and google-eyes!) When God Says, “Go” is already available for preorder, and audiobooks are in the works for both titles.
To celebrate WGSW’s one-year book birthday, this week I’m hosting a book giveaway until March 7! Enter below (scroll all the way down), and the winner receives two books of your choice: Choose from When God Says, “Wait,” When God Says, “Go” (yep, I’ll send you an advanced reader copy, whaaaaat?!), The Tender Years: Parenting Preschoolers, or my middle grade novel, The Thirteenth Summer.
Would you like to help me celebrate WGSW’s book birthday? If so, here are a few ways to party with me:
1. Share the image above on social media, perhaps including a few lines about how WGSW has ministered to you. (Or you could simply share this post!)
3. If you’re super-duper motivated, you could also share that WGSW is about to be a “big sister” to a follow-up book, When God Says, “Go”—now available for preorder! Preorders are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and ChristianBook.com. (Links are below if you need them.)
I am forever and for-always thankful for your prayers, support, and friendship.
“There you go—all clean!” He picks his daughter up off the changing table and gives her a snuggle. She pats his face, giggling as his mustache tickles her fingers.
He flies her, Superbaby-style, into the kitchen. She squeals with delight; he finally dares to breathe through his nose. “Wow, that was an impressive diaper,” he tells her, wrinkling his nose and chuckling. “You even polluted the air in the kitchen! Who knew someone so sweet could make something so gross?”
He straps her into the high chair. “How about some banana?”
As he peels and slices the fruit, he grimaces. “You know what? It still smells funky in here. I’m going to get some air freshener.”
Handing his daughter the banana, he heads to the bathroom for a can of air freshener. As he sprays it in the kitchen, he whispers, “Don’t tell your mother. She’ll say I’m contaminating the food.”
The baby grins. “Gah.”
Twenty minutes later, they sit together on the couch, pointing to pictures in a board book. As his daughter’s chubby fingers pat the pictures, his nose sends out panicked alerts. “Again?” he asks the back of his daughter’s head. “No more black beans for you, my friend.”
With a sigh, he takes her back to the changing table. But when he opens her diaper, he blinks. “Pump fake! You’re totally clean!”
She giggles agreement. “Bah!”
He puts her down for a nap and sits at his desk, trying to catch up on emails. He takes a deep breath and gags. “Sheesh, that child has contaminated this entire house!” He grabs the air freshener and squares his shoulders. He marches room to room, spraying—a firefighter dousing a blaze.
When he is done, a fake-flower-scented mist hangs heavy in the air. Eyes watering, he sits back down at his desk and tries to concentrate.
An hour later, he hears his wife’s keys in the front door. He meets her at the door and holds out the baby—her fat little legs kick happily in the air between them. “This child,” he says, his voice sounding a little more manic than he wants it to, “has serious gastrointestinal issues. I am telling you, this is not normal. I had college roommates who smelled better than her! We have to take her to the doctor—she will never make a single friend if she smells like this.”
Laughing, his wife takes the baby and raises her toward her face.
“Don’t do it!” the husband warns. “Your nose will never recover!”
The wife rolls her eyes and presses her nose against the baby’s padded bottom. The husband waits for her gag reflex to kick in.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about—she smells amazing! Baby fresh!” Cuddling the baby to her cheek, the wife steps inside. “The house, on the other hand…did a can of air freshener explode in here?”
Her husband gapes at her. “What–what–how can you not smell her? I’ve been dying a slow death by methane poisoning all morning!”
Laughing, his wife takes a step toward him, placing a hand on his cheek. “Darling, I can promise you that no one has ever died from—” She narrows her eyes and leans in close. Sniffs. Recoils for a moment, then leans back in, squinting hard at his face.
“What?” he says, stepping back from her scrutiny. “You’re freaking me out!”
His wife raises a finger and points. A smile tugs at one side of her mouth. “Mystery solved. You’ve got baby poop in your mustache.”
A friend once told me this story—a true story that happened to one of his friends (the overall situation is real; the dialogue I invented). I gag—and laugh—every time I remember it. Call me weird (I prefer the term “quirky”), but I’ve found some profound life lessons in this story. (I know what you’re thinking: Why do all of Elizabeth’s life lessons seem to revolve around disgusting things like poop and lice? I’ve got five words for you: four kids and a dog.)
So hold your nose and bear with me while we hash this out: Have you ever had a day—or a season of days—where everything just….stinks? Everywhere you go, life seems dark, people seem mean. Misfortune and misunderstanding haunt you, malicious shadows.
In times like that, when life seems darker than usual, I find it helpful to ask myself, “Is life really as awful as it seems…or do I just have poop on my upper lip?” In other words, am I carrying around a stinky attitude that is polluting the way I experience the world? Am I walking into beautiful, fresh-scented rooms, but carrying my own negative aroma with me—an air freshener in reverse?
Sometimes our experience of the world changes, not because the world has changed, but because we have.
Maybe someone has hurt our feelings, and the unresolved hurt we are hanging onto makes us view all other relationships with mistrust. We begin to see people through a filter of skepticism; every relationship becomes a potential source of pain.
Maybe we feel disappointed by God, let down by a promise yet unanswered, and we find ourselves becoming cynical, sarcastic, jaded. Angry with God, expecting the worst, determined to take care of ourselves if God won’t do the job.
Maybe we’ve lost something or someone, and the loss casts a shadow of sadness and fear over our should-be-happy moments.
Jeremiah 17, the famous passage about depending on God, contains a fascinating turn of phrase:
The man who trusts in mankind,
who makes human flesh his strength
and turns his heart from the Lord is cursed.
He will be like a juniper in the Arabah;
he cannot see when good comes
but dwells in the parched places in the wilderness.
Jeremiah 17:5–6 HCSB, emphasis added
Take a look at those emphasized verses: he cannot see good when it comes. Sometimes God is blessing us—life is good, people are kind, blessings abound—but our own perspective has clouded our view, tainted our experience, of the world. We’ve taken our eyes off God and His power and goodness. We’ve become self-focused and tunnel-visioned, our senses warped by pain and disappointment, so we cannot see—or smell!—the good when it comes.
The next time your life feels like a series of misfortunes, or God seems distant, or friends seem scarce, try taking a look in the mirror. Maybe you really are going through a miserable time; maybe you really are facing more than your fair share of difficulty; maybe people truly are being cruel and selfish…or maybe, just maybe, you’ve got poop on your upper lip.
Need some biblical air freshener to help change your perspective?
Try studying these scriptures—they are about forgiveness, joy, and trusting God:
Photo courtesy of Unsplash. Photo credit TJ Holowaychuk.
My husband, Mr. Dreamer, loves this time of year with its resolutions and new beginnings; I, Mrs. Over-analytic and Fearful, find the whole new-year-new-you thing kind of exhausting. Scary. Overwhelming. We have a running joke in our marriage: Kevin likes to live in the future; I can’t get out of the past—so somewhere, between the two of us, we find a way to live in the present.
Every January, we get pummeled by the same message: Look ahead! Dream big! Pray brave! But sometimes it’s hard to look ahead. Tiring to dream big. Scary to pray brave.
And that’s where remembering comes in. Remembering what God has already done: love already shown, gifts already given, prayers already answered. Sometimes we become so consumed with the future, so eager to move on to the Next Big Thing, that we forget to celebrate what God has already done. The astounding miracles we have already witnessed. The crazy prayers that have already been answered. The progress we have already made—imperfect progress, sure; incomplete progress, yes; but still—progress! Forward motion! Growth!
The other night we had a fun talk as a family. We intended to make a list of family prayers for the new year, but then we went off on a tangent. Kevin and I started telling the kids our favorite stories about times when God has answered crazy prayers for us—prayers that once felt impossible. We talked about everything from our miracle Christmas baby story after years of infertility (a story the kids have already heard ten thousand times and will hear ten thousand more because it’s the greatest God story of our lives); to the time when, after decades of unbelief, Kevin’s beloved relative turned to God, thanks to a run-in with a falling oak tree; to the “smaller” stories, like a time when we were working like crazy but still couldn’t pay our bills, and Kevin and I both secretly and independently begged God to mail us money—and when we went to the mailbox there was a check for the exact amount we needed!
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How to Find God—and Joy—When Life Is Hard
Reliving these stories, the miracles big and small, was a powerful reminder for me and Kevin, a reminder that we have already seen God perform staggering, “HOW DID HE DO THAT?!” deeds many times; a reminder that even when the road ahead feels scary, our problems overwhelming and impossible, we already have so many reasons for great faith. . . It made me—me! faithless, scaredy-cat me!—get excited about daring to write down big prayers for the new year. It made me faithful that the powerful God who has done great things in the past can—and will—do great things once more—in His own time, in His own way. It made me confident that God hears us even when His answers come more slowly—or in different form—than we had imagined. And it reminded me just how loved—how deeply, personally loved—we are by our heavenly Father. Best of all, as we recounted these stories, we watched faith light in our kids’ eyes. I could see their faith blooming even as we spoke. They laughed, they grew wide-eyed, they stood in awe of God.
As you ponder your hopes and prayers and needs for the new year, I hope you’ll first take an hour to sit down and remember. To remember all the prayers God has already answered, all the miracles you have already seen. To celebrate and thank Him once more for gifts already given. To bask in His love, which He has proven time and again. If you have children, sit them down and tell them your God stories in the spirit of Exodus 13:14: “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.'”
When all that is done, then you’ll be ready to start dreaming for the future, drawing hope and faith and confidence from what God has already done for you.
As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long— though I know not how to relate them all. I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone. Psalm 71:14–16
Happy holidays, right? Fa la la la laaaaaaaaaaaaa! It’s amazing how quickly the beauty of family bonding time can sour into family grump time. And it’s not just the kids who turn into grumps—Grinchiness can attack us all, no matter our age or stage in life. We can get irritated with roommates, spouses, extended family, annoying pets…
Every Christmas, my family relies upon the passage I call Old Faithful, a.k.a. Philippians 2. It has seen us through many a grumpy moment on holidays, vacations, and—well, even on regular old days when we have descended into selfish funks.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very natureGod, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very natureof a servant, being made in human likeness . . . .
Do everything without grumbling or arguing,so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”Then you will shine among them like stars in the skyas you hold firmly to the word of life. –Philippians 2:1–7, 14–16
The way of Christ is humility, sacrifice, and selflessness! Putting others’ needs before our own. Forgetting what we want and what would make our holidays great, and putting others’ needs first. Choosing gratitude over discontent, speaking thanks instead of complaint. When we become selfless, a funny thing happens: We get happier! We have more fun! We find joy in the midst of chaos and stress! Isn’t it amazing how wise God’s ways are? Our heavenly Father—our Designer—knows how we function best…and he made us to give! We thrive when we serve.
(Ahem. I hereby interrupt this blog post for a Public Service Announcement addressed to those of you who never stop: Please do not read this and think, “I should run myself ragged serving others this Christmas.” If that is you, please read Have a ‘Mary’ Christmas: More Sitting, Less Stressing! End of PSA announcement.)
Want more ideas for bringing Christ into the chaos of daily life? Sign up for my newsletter here and you’ll receive a free download: 7 two-minute devotions to do around the breakfast table with your family!
Kevin and I read Philippians 2 with our family all the time (in fact, we discussed it for the umpteenth time yesterday). With young kids, try reading this passage in the New Living Translation; it’s a little easier to comprehend. After we read, we like to give our kids lots of practical, specific examples to “hang” these scriptures on. We encourage them to think about things like, “How can I make my sister happy today?” and “What game would my brother like to play today?” and “What if I let everyone else choose which cookie they want before me?” (In our house, volunteering to be the last cookie-chooser would be a sacrifice of saint-like proportions.)
Here’s to defeating the spirits of Scrooge and Grinch and Grump, and having a holly-jolly Christmas through the Spirit of Christ!
When All You Want for Christmas Is a Baby: A Spiritual Survival Guide for When You’re TTC at Christmas
Ah, Christmas. The most wonderful time of the year. . . unless you’re going through infertility. Every commercial mocks your pain: angel-eyed toddlers looking oh-so-squeezable in red and white striped pajamas, waiting wide-eyed for Santa. (And how about that Pampers commercial they play 5,000 times every season with all the babies sleeping to “Silent Night”? Excruciating!) Every trip to the mailbox is an assault on your soul, every Christmas card a test of your gratitude, your self-confidence, your ability to keep jealousy at bay: babies in Santa hats, toddlers on Santa’s lap, and best (meaning worst) of all: the pregnancy-announcement-slash-Christmas-card combo, a double whammy! It’s enough to make the sanest and holiest of us Google things like “1,000 ways to blow up a mailbox.”
And then there’s the dilemma of your own Christmas card situation: Do you get a dramatic haircut so something looks different from last year’s card? Buy a puppy? Put an asterisk on the empty space between you and your husband and include a line on the back of the card that says, *A baby should be here. Yes, we’ve been trying to start a family FOR AGES, and no, we don’t want advice about ovulation and base temperature?
As a survivor of several Baby-less Christmases, I want to encourage you that with God’s help, you can have a joyful holiday season, even if you are also enduring a season of infertility. You can have fun. You can stay sane. You can enjoy the life you have even while you pray for the life you want.
Here are a few strategies that helped me and Kevin survive our TTC Christmases (TTC means Trying to Conceive):
1–Battle envy with love and self-pity with gratitude.
The Christmas season can make us more painfully aware of our own empty arms compared to our friends’ full ones. Romans 12:21 encourages us to “overcome evil with good.” Whenever I was tempted to envy friends their babies or pregnancies, I worked to resist envy by focusing on how much I loved my friends. I deliberately centered on thoughts like this: I love this friend. I am happy that God has blessed her with a family. I am glad she is not suffering through infertility. I pray she enjoys a fulfilling Christmas season being pregnant/being a mom, just as I hope to enjoy my own Christmas in my own way. (And then I ran to the nearest Starbucks and drowned my sorrows in a decaf mocha.)
We have to deliberately combat self-pity with gratitude. When the Enemy whispers, “God is holding out on you. Your life is terrible. Everyone else has more than you,” we have to replace those lies—which lead only to sadness and bitterness—with the only thing powerful enough to overcome them: gratitude. Remind yourself of God’s goodness, thinking through all the gifts he has already given you—be as specific as you can. I like to make gratitude lists and read them to God in prayer!
2–Think ahead, and be gentle with yourself.
Christmas heightens our emotions, and if you’re going through infertility, you’re probably going to feel more fragile during holiday seasons.
We all have things that trigger us: seeing pregnant women or new moms; walking within 100 feet of the baby aisle; Instagram bump-dates. If you can identify the things that most hurt you and tempt you to feel down, then you can plan ahead to either avoid those situations entirely, or at least to experience them in smaller, more manageable doses (doses that you have spiritually and emotionally prepared yourself to handle).
For example, let’s revisit the Christmas card issue. If you hold your breath every time you open a card, waiting for temptation to take you down—the stab of envy when you see the umpteenth baby swaddled in a stocking; the painful sense of insecurity or even inferiority when you see yet another friend walking across a field holding hands with her children and just looking so daggum motherly and complete—then go easy on yourself. You don’t have to drool over every baby picture and linger over every life update. Set the Christmas cards aside and open them in batches with your husband at your side. Pray and set your heart on celebrating the lives of the people you love, give the cards a quick once-over, and move on with your life. Your life, the life God gave you—a life that is fully meaningful and valuable and packed with love, with or without a baby. (And hey—if you really can’t handle the baby’s-first-Christmas-themed cards, who’s to know if you skip opening them altogether?!)
If you usually buy gifts for a family in need, but the idea of shopping for someone else’s kids brings up too many sad feelings this year, perhaps you can buy gifts for an adult instead. Or bypass the whole gift-shopping idea and donate food to your local food bank or time to a soup kitchen.
Social media. . . take it easy for a while, my friend, unless you have a superpower that makes you immune to envy.
And can we talk Christmas pageants? My advice is to head to the bathroom for a nice long break during the kids’ performances at church. I mean, the heart can only take so much.
Infertility is hard enough on regular days; during the Christmas season, go as easy on yourself as you can. Even though I joke about these things, I’m not suggesting we make excuses for becoming selfish or cynical or rude—but it’s not wrong to shelter ourselves a bit from some of the difficulties the holidays bring. It’s wise to think ahead, plan ahead, and pray ahead.
3–Be intentional in your thinking.
It’s oh-so-tempting to spend the entire holiday thinking about all the things you wish you were doing this Christmas…the baby you wish you were holding, the toys you wish you were buying, the sleep (weird as it sounds) you wish you weren’t getting.
And if Satan has his way, that’s all we will think about. We’ll be consumed by the sad things, the loss, the hole in our hearts. And in so doing, we give away any chance of joy. We give away our happiness, our gratitude, and our perspective.
I’m not saying your sadness and pain and the hole in your heart are not real. They are real. Your sadness is valid. Your loss is legitimate. But we can choose what we focus on this holiday season—and always.
Focusing on what we don’t have has never been God’s way. All throughout scripture, God encourages his people to remember what he has already done for them. What gifts they do have (even if they still lack some things they want—or even things they need). I love David’s attitude in Psalm 13–begging for relief even as he remembers God’s past kindness:
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me. –Psalm 13, emphasis added
Here is a simple strategy that helps me reclaim control of my mood when I’m hurting (adapted from my book When God Says “Wait”):
–Take a moment every morning to write down 3 things you have to look forward to that day. (Some days you might be really stretching things, but that’s okay: This morning I’ll splurge and put fancy creamer in my coffee; today I get to meet a friend at the gym; tonight I’ll get to snuggle with my husband and re-watch Stranger Things.) No matter how difficult life is, we all have good things in store in every day, if we’ll just train ourselves to pay attention.
–Take a moment every evening to write down 3 things you are grateful for from that day: God prompted a friend to send an encouraging text just when I was feeling down; I got a phone call from my mother (I have a mother! She is alive and she loves me enough to call me!); I laughed at lunch with a friend.
Exercises like these bring gratitude and a healthy, big-picture perspective into our lives.
4–Be proactive in planning your holiday season. Focus on fun!
Christmas 2004 was rough for me and Kevin. It was the third Christmas since we’d started trying to conceive. Everything in me wanted to hide in my bedroom all December watching Die Hard, the most non-kid-related but still vaguely Christmasy movie I could find (ahem—even Die Hard has one annoying reference to the pregnant woman who needed a couch to sit on—no movie is safe when you can’t get pregnant!).
But I decided to fight back. Baby or no baby, I still loved Christmas, and I didn’t want infertility to ruin my favorite time of the year.
That year Kevin and I were intentional about doing a lot of fun things—fun things we might not be able to do, we reminded ourselves, if we had a baby in tow! We deliberately made new memories together. We decorated our house like crazy and made it feel festive. If memory serves, that was the year we drove out to the country to a Christmas tree farm and cut down our own tree. We went to late movies and made ourselves sick on popcorn. We slept as late as we wanted and cooked fancy breakfasts. We went a little crazy splurging on gifts for our siblings. We planned a fun vacation for the following spring.
–We are always happier when we are giving. Find ways to serve your community: My favorite way to serve at Christmastime is to visit seniors in nursing homes (ahem, added bonus: not one of the nursing home residents will be pregnant!). Call ahead and ask how you can give: You can bring cards, sing Christmas carols, help with their Christmas activities and parties, or just sit and chat with the residents. Get ready to hear some amazing stories!
Christmas can be tough when you can’t get pregnant, but with focus and prayer, you can still claim joy. You can make memories and have fun. You can remain grateful and spiritual. You can stay close to your husband. You can sidestep the Enemy’s traps of envy, self-pity, and sadness.
Are you struggling to conceive this Christmas? My heart is with you. Send me your name—I’d love to pray for you!
Hi! I'm Elizabeth, and Lizzy Life is all about clinging to Christ in the chaos of daily life. As a minister, speaker, and novelist (The Thirteenth Summer), I love finding humor in holiness, and hope in heartache. I live in North Carolina with my preacher husband and four miracle children. I believe the recipe for a happy life is simple: laugh-cry daily, pray continually, caffeinate constantly. My new book, When God Says "Wait," is now available from Barbour Publishing. READ MORE.
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