Entering Year 3

So about a week and a half ago officially marked 2 years since we started trying to have a baby and expand our family. In about a week will mark a year since we started infertility treatment. It’s been a long process – – not as long as some, but longer than most – – and we have no promise it will be over anytime soon.

We’re getting to the end of our options and are kind of at a crossroads what to do next. We’ve taken the past month or two off which has been a nice change of pace. When we’re in the midst of medical treatment – especially injectables -it’s so intense… doctor’s appointments every other day, the nurses call in the afternoons, shots at night, keeping track of millimeters, watching for hyperstimulation, scheduling IUI… and then when it doesn’t work – it’s just exhausting and an emotionally draining roller coaster.

So although the recent month or so has been good, there has been this marker kind of hanging over my head. I knew it shouldn’t. It doesn’t change anything. How come it’s so easy for me to remember dates of hard things like this but I don’t remember the date Bryan first told me he loved me or good things like that? Anyways, the date had always loomed – even when we first started, I just kept ticking months away. And then the months turned into a year. And then into 2.

So – with no chance of getting pregnant recently, nothing was changing on that day and I knew that, so it was on my horizon but I was trying not to think about it. I was hoping to get by the day without a breakdown… easier said than done:)

I woke up that Saturday morning – December 18th – feeling pretty down. It was just so easy for me to feel discouraged and really sad that we’re no closer to having a family than we were 2 years ago. All those lies were filling my head – not believing God is good, being angry that He gives so freely to so many others and is withholding from us and overall just feeling despair at our circumstances.

And I come downstairs to do my “december 2010” morning routine of opening my advent present:) My present for the day was wrapped with a teal bow. I had heard that my sweet friend Emily Weller, who moved to MN, had given me a gift and I thought it may be from her because of the special bow. I opened it up and saw her writing on the card.

Ah, yes, my sweet friend. My dear, dear friend.

I read the card and started crying (shocker). Em has such a great gift of being able to encourage me and speak straight to my heart. I love her so much and her words lay me bare in the best way possible. She wrote that this gift was to remind me “that God is taking these bitter experiences and working them in His hands, combining them with His incredible mercy and grace, and He is making something sweet.”

I just kept reading that over and over, letting it penetrate my heart.

And I opened the present

Let me tell you about this. John Piper wrote a book called “A Sweet and Bitter Providence” about the story of Ruth and suffering. I actually wrote about it a little about it a while ago, but there was an analogy that was so key. Em and I were actually reading it around the same time and we went on a walk one evening. She brought up this part in the introduction:

“The Sovereignty of God

Fifth, the most prominent purpose of the book of Ruth is to bring the calamities and sorrows of life under the sway of God’s providence and show us that God’s purposes are good. It is not a false statement when Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, says, “[T]he Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. . . . [T]he Almighty has brought calamity upon me” (Ruth 1:20–21).

That is true. But here’s the question the book answers: Is God’s bitter providence the last word? Are bitter ingredients (like vanilla extract) put in the mixer to make the cake taste bad? Everywhere I look in the world today, whether near or far, the issue for real people in real life is, Can I trust and love the God who has dealt me this painful hand in life? That is the question the book of Ruth intends to answer.”

We discussed a couple of sentences that were so quick I had actually overlooked:

Is God’s bitter providence the last word? Are bitter ingredients (like vanilla extract) put in the mixer to make the cake taste bad?

The baker in me had something to say about that. In ALL of my baked goods I always put extra salt and extra vanilla. I distinctly remember being a little kid and asking my parents why we put salt in our homemade cookies. My dad did a little experiment. He had me taste a little dough and then sprinkled a little extra salt and tasted it – the salted one was SO much better! That 6 year old’s life lesson is being re-learned and magnified for my (almost!) 26 year old self.

Vanilla is a biter ingredient. It is made from steeping vanilla beans in liquor and can sometimes have a very strong alcoholic taste. For most people, you wouldn’t think that taste would go in every baked good from chocolate chip cookies, to brownies, to cookie dough cupcakes!! But the thing is, the bitter taste of vanilla brings out the sweetness of the rest of the ingredients and compliments the dish as a whole.

Emily and I talked about this a lot. I thought about it a lot, too. Anytime I would bake (which is at least once a week – often much more!) and I poured extra vanilla in or shook a little additional salt, I thought about this analogy. “Is vanilla put in a cake to make it taste bad?”

The answer is NO!!! When we put the bitter into the dish, the entire dish becomes sweeter. The more we put in (to an extent of course), the better it becomes.

When the Lord brings suffering and sorrow into my life, is it the last word? Is God bringing only bitterness upon me?

Praise the Lord, my resounding answer is NO!!! No. God, out of his intense love, kindness and faithfulness, is “adding in a little extra vanilla” – making things bitter now, so that my life and my heart can be sweeter. The ultimate sweetness is knowing Jesus more fully and more intimately. By God bringing this bitterness into my life currently, He knows that overall, my life will be that much sweeter – I will know Jesus more than I ever have.

And so back to that gift.

Bitter vanilla

To remind me “that God is taking these bitter experiences and working them in His hands, combining them with His incredible mercy and grace, and He is making something sweet.”

Here we are – entering our 3rd year of trying to have a family. No one knows that the 18th was that day. I don’t think Curry or Steph knew why the vanilla was such a great gift. But by God’s good providence (another reminder in itself!) I opened this gift on that day. As soon as I saw it, i just started weeping. Literally, standing in my dining room weeping, clutching this bottle of vanilla to my chest. It was such a poignant, needed reminder. My Father is giving me this to make my life SWEETER. It is out of his GOODNESS.

I can trust in that. God’s bitter providences are not the last word. He has proven that to us in giving us His Son Jesus.

For all the promises of God find their Yes in [Jesus]. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”  2 Cor 1:20

God promises He is good. He promises He is in control. Anything and everything He does is out of His Fatherly love, His grace, His faithfulness, His lovingkindness. He knows what is best for me. He whispers to me “my daughter, trust me.”

And so I enter year 3 holding on to that promise, reminded by an incredible gift by a friend. All the while continuing to hear Jesus say,

“Trust Me…. trust Me….”

I believe Lord. Help my unbelief.


About jackielopina

Follower of Jesus, Pastor's Wife, Cookie Baker.
This entry was posted in Baking, Books, Friends, Holidays, Infertility, Jesus, Outpouring of Grace, Sanctification and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Entering Year 3

  1. thanks so much for sharing how special this gift was and why. We just thought it was really cool b/c you like to bake so much!! How fantastic that God guided us to wrap it for such an appropriate day! love you friend

  2. abbrogle says:

    oh jackie…i’m so glad the Lord put you in my life:) Merry Christmas dear friend…your words, today, have so sweetened my heart. This bitterness, it is for our good, and thank you for reminding me of that!

  3. Curry Winters says:

    That is amazing…God is sooo good! Thank you for sharing the hard parts and the great parts. Such a great truth from a delicious flavor:)

  4. Bryan says:

    Love you and your post.

  5. emily weller says:

    i echo bryan’s words :) love you so much – i am so incredibly thankful to have a friend like you, and i’m humbled to get to be on this journey with you. may He bend our wills to His! tears are filling my eyes… love you!

  6. Pingback: Advent Basket Days 12-25 :) « Hoping in God

  7. I reread this today and pinned it. One of your best posts. period. I love you, friend and hope that this season continues to shine brighter than last year, especially as this date approaches. Praise God that he continues to work in and through you as you walk this road.

  8. Michelle says:

    Jackie, I just stumbled upon your blog and this post ministered to my soul. Thank you for being so vulnerable and for writing all of these things down. The LORD is using you. Thank you friend :)

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