Seeing the dreaded drop of red, turned to a washed-out pink with the splash of tears - I never imagined walking down this road of infertility, my notebooks since I was a child always housing a page or two of future baby names, my dreams toggling between having four or five little ones. But this is where Luke and I find ourselves, two and a half years in of trying to conceive. There's of course the perk of extra freedoms without the responsibility and compressed pace of life found with a family with children, like taking a trip to Europe on a whim. But even in a beautiful place like Paris - the film photos I snapped in our last two hours in the city I share here, the longings and grieving aren't far off. Unsurprisingly, I often found myself wandering up to boutiques filled with the cutest cotton onesies, soft stuffed animals, and mobiles. We spent our honeymoon in this lovely historic city, newlywed hopes and dreams burning bright with the still fresh memories of all our people gathered in a chapel and under a sailcloth tent in Arkansas, in celebration of God's faithfulness and our commitment to each other, til death do us part. And we found ourselves here in Paris again, four years later, and so much has changed, but God's faithfulness has remained. Outside of the US and Canada, France is the only place I've found myself returning to for the second time, with feelings of familiarity yet so much new to see mixing in my heart. This mixture of familiar and new seems to me like a picture of marriage, really - a haven from life's troubles and harsh realities, yet as we are both growing and changing, there's always new things to learn from this husband and friend, sharer of intimacies and the often messy, yet beautiful scenes of life.
We share the burden of infertility in our marriage too. And in the emotional sufferings, we find a way forward - God's promises of care and His building of endurance in us proving true again and again. God's people praying, that instagram message that shares "Hey, me too", the encouragement from a friend that God is working in the unseen. There's the possibility of adoption, the blessing of our local infertility clinic, and the possibility of adopting frozen embryos, and the persistent hope of morning sickness too. This doesn't minimize the pain, or lessen the grief, but it grounds us. And in every baby announcement, the steadying words found in Job ring in my head and press in to the deep recesses of my heart. Congratulations quick from my tongue, past the quivering of my chin, with a prayer to the Father who sees and knows. Words from Scripture rising to the surface, and the only explanation I have is it's from the Spirit, the Helper, giving sight to my often blind eyes. Words from Job, and from the Letter to the Romans: "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord", and "Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep".
This is life isn't it? Holding sorrows in one hand, and joys in the other, with the hope of Heaven and eternal joys before us, because Jesus is real and alive. So we celebrate the beauty of Paris, and we grieve another month gone by with no announcement, and He enables us to do so with steadfastness, because He is our hope. And at the end of our days, with or without dreams fulfilled or a legacy of children, our lives are not wasted, because of the One who orchestrates our days and holds us together with a higher calling. And we can thank Him for the trials and the pains. The lyrics of a song I clung to back in my university days after a painful breakup have resurfaced in my mind recently, and I'll share them below. We are often more alike than not, reader, and I hope you find this article encouraging, no matter how different or alike your struggles are contrasted with mine. And I hope you know this One who gives us hope.
Every Day by Sovereign Grace Music
In Your grace, You know where I walk
You know when I fall, You know all my ways
In Your love, I know You allow
What I cannot grasp
To bring you praise
Thank You for the trials
For the fire, for the pain
Thank You for the strength
Knowing You have ordained
Your great power is shown when I'm weak
You help me to see Your love in this place
Perfect peace is filling my mind
And drawing my heart
To praise You again
In my uncertainty, Your Word is all I need
To know You're with me every day
A few notes on the film photos captured here: I shot them on the beloved Portra 400 film stock, on our Nikon 28ti film camera, which I've found to be such a great hobby and vacation camera - it's hardy, beautiful, and the wide lens, even with the slightly distorted corners you see in some of these frames, beautifully captures landscapes and buildings, and I love how it all turned out. My only regret is not getting more shots of Luke - those are my favourite :).