God is Always There – 5 Things to Look Out for in Challenging Seasons

God is Always There – 5 Things to Look Out for in Challenging Seasons

I can’t believe we got this far. A year ago it was only a dream. 8 months ago I felt utterly devastated…and now we’re nearing the third trimester. The baby we’ve been hoping and praying for – for years – is almost here.

Our journey has not been an easy one. Then…it has not been as difficult as many other couples’ paths.

But it HAS been a moulding season in our lives. Looking back we are in awe of the goodness, while recognising the difficult moments. It taught us lessons and resilience in new ways. And while it was difficult, I actually don’t want to simply forget the bad times.

The Importance of Reflecting on Seasons

Apart from being super excited about holding our daughter in a few months’ time, I also want to remember what else we’ve gained. It’s the lessons that can help us in future and if we carry them with us, coming seasons may be less overwhelming.

Also, I’m passionate about potential. Potential should bloom so we can all become what God planned us to be. I believe that aligning with His plan leads to more contentment, more purpose and more of Him. And lessons and wisdom are vital for that kind of life.

One of the things I can recognise in every challenging time I’ve ever faced was how God was present. Often, I only realised it afterwards. Or, I only realised in what great capacity He has been there all along – while I was trying to figure it out myself. It would have been so much easier if I recognised Him from the start. But He is patient and always ready to dry my tears and helps me pick up pieces and move ahead.

This time, we were once again blessed by Him every step of the way, even though there were difficult days. And if that is His desire – to be with me during challenges – then He wants to be that for me every day. Because God doesn’t change. His attitude and characteristics stay the same.

So, here’s what I want to remember and look for in future when there are challenges heading our way.

woman sitting leaning forehead on knee

5 Truths About God to Look for During Difficult Seasons

People – He Sends Them

This is the thing I’ve been astounded with the most: the people He sent.

I have always been blessed with good people in my life and I will always be thankful for that. But the number of people God sent my way that had SPECIFIC value and SPECIFIC roles to play during this season of praying for a baby…blew my mind.

Help EXACTLY When You Need it

I remember the day after deciding that we will take the big step of visiting a fertility clinic. That morning a client that has become a friend messaged me about work. Knowing we shared the same beliefs, I felt to share with her about my situation and decision.

Let’s be clear: I don’t share personal matters easily. But that day I just FELT to. And for the rest of the day I received messages from that lady who went through exactly what I was going through…for years. I had no idea that they had struggled to have kids themselves. To find understanding in a moment when I was intensely vulnerable about the waters I have chosen to walk on, was of incomparable value.

He knew I needed those words. He prompted me to share. He even planned it that she would need work done on that day, to initiate a conversation. Over the next few months this lady became a pillar of strength. She helped me feel comfortable with my emotions, whatever they were and she carried me in prayer.

So Many People Helped me

In the same way, people I’ve known for years came ‘back on the scene’. Each one played integral roles in carrying me through:

  • The days I didn’t know how to have faith
  • My journey as a potential parent
  • The fears of not having any control about the outcome of fertility treatment
  • Thinking about what your imperfect body may be incapable of doing

…and how He plays a role in all of this.

Without these people, our journey would have been more alone, daunting and overwhelming.

I thank Him for the people He activated to play their roles in my story and know to always watch for them in future seasons.

Timing – It Matters

One of the first things I remember of the journey of the past year was the moment we decided that we should go to a fertility clinic.

The Journey

For years we’ve known that our chances of having a baby naturally were slim, for medical reasons. By God’s grace it wasn’t torture each month to realise that conception still didn’t happen, although there were sad moments. Friends often prompted me to find out about other options, but in my heart I knew I could never consider fertility treatment, adoption or anything else unless I felt an urge to.

Becoming a parent is a huge enough endeavour. To face the challenges that come with IVF or IUI would put strain on us. We may doubt our decisions around every bend in the road. I believed that without the necessary conviction and drive, that journey would be much worse than it should be.

This conviction came from my personal perspective and I know each person is unique, so it will be different for everyone. But for me, I knew I didn’t need to be a mother in order to feel fulfilled. God has filled my life with so much – passions, hobbies, people, a husband, talents – that I knew I could be happy with or without becoming a parent. Therefore, I didn’t want to push the topic just because I was getting older or because everyone around me had children. It was something I would have liked, but not something I craved. And I believed that without craving it…without that drive…a journey of infertility treatment would just be too much for me to handle.

So I waited. Countless times I said that ‘unless I felt something in me shift’ and switch on that desire to be a parent – which so many of my friends spoke about before their child-prayers were answered – I didn’t want to force us into a season we may not be ready for.

The Shift

That season eventually arrived when I was 38. (Late in life I knew…but still a perfect time for us). In a moment, in July 2020, I simply knew that it was the next step we needed to take. In that moment I was intensely sad – heartbroken – about the fact that it hasn’t happened for us yet. I had never felt that way before. And I knew something in my heart shifted.

By His grace (once again), my husband was working from home that day, found me crying and I could share my heart with him. And the journey started.

What followed was challenging but beautiful and miraculous. I think it would have been much different had I not waited for the time my gut (spirit) was telling me to wait for.

While writing this, please know that I’m not saying everyone’s journeys will be this way. You can be in His perfect timing and still wait for years for a prayer to come to fruitition. But countless times I’ve seen that when He does ask you to wait or if He suggests a timeline in your heart…it’s always best to follow it.

Preparation – He Saw this Coming a Mile Away

So, the clinic we went to.

18 months before that July 2020 day, we received the results of blood tests that told us how slim our chances were of having children. We did NOT expect it. We were shattered.

By God’s grace (yes, again), one of my friends and mentors (people…again) was in town (she lives a few hundred km away). We met for coffee the day after the results came and the moment I sat down I burst into tears.

Long story short, years ago she lived in the same city I live in now. She knew about a well respected fertility doctor and also knew him to be an amazing believer in the God we serve. This was encouraging in itself, just to know that there were options…good options for us to pursue in a city we’ve only recently moved to.

But wait, there’s more:

  • She also knew his receptionist.
  • They were having dinner with that receptionist that very evening.
  • Minutes later, that receptionist walked past our table, shopping for that evening’s dinner.

I am NOT kidding.

Now to be clear, we ended up only going to this doctor over a year later. But having that knowledge and seeing how He guided me to meet up with His future role players in my life that day, was something to hold on to. He knew well ahead of time what and who I would need and put things in motion to benefit my journey.

So, the question is, when you look back, which ‘accidental’ or ‘coincidental’ situations can you identify over the past few years or months? Could His plan for you already be in motion, but you just don’t see the final result yet?

Once again, I would like to mention ‘timing’. I could have rushed to the doctor the very next day after I heard about him. Perhaps God would have let everything play out in our favour anyway. Or perhaps, because I truly didn’t feel the time was right, it would have been a longer – more stresful – journey. I will never know, but seeing how things fell in place over time, I am comforted by the fact that He doesn’t need everything to happen TODAY. Two years from now is still in His plan.

Opportunities – He is in the Business of Activating Potential

In every challenge there are ways He blesses us as a couple. In addition, there’s almost always also a way – an opportunity – to pay it forward. That’s the potential of each situation. The blessing and lessons He is giving us can also help someone else and we need to keep our eyes peeled for those opportunities.

For us it was an immense blessing to be able to pass on the message of our fertility journey to friends who had a miscarriage while we were still waiting to see if our treatment worked. Even being a little further ahead in the journey enabled us to give someone else hope.

Opportunities are everywhere, whether it is to get a new job, to bless someone, to learn something…we just need to look for them.

Advice – He Speaks in Many Ways

Finally, let’s talk about the wonderful doctor that helped us.

My View

Note: I’m extremely stubborn. I don’t easily change my mind (my poor husband will confirm this).

So, when we started on the fertility journey, I just wanted to try a procedure once. I didn’t want to regret not ever trying, but I couldn’t see myself trying five or 10 times like some couples have the courage to. For one thing, I was already 38 and felt I didn’t want to be pregnant well into my forties. So, if it didn’t happen after the first try, I would make peace with it. Also, it’s expensive no matter what procedure your doctor advises, so we had to be realistic about what is affordable.

The Doctor’s View

Enter, the awesome doctor.

My stubborness even extends to doctors’ advice as I don’t easily believe anything people tell me, even if they’re professionals. But sitting in front of that doctor that day was different. He of course knew what he was talking about but he also had amazing bedside manners. He took the time to explain everything to us, listen to our fears and questions and even understood my tears.

Part of his communication to us was that although he had faith in God that He could make a tiny life happen for us, he also faced the realities of statistics. We needed to take this into consideration too. Each time we tried, we would increase our chances of being the next couple getting the good news of conception and hopefully a healthy baby. How he spoke and explained helped me open my mind to a different perspective. And today I am eternally grateful for that practical advice that prepared me for the road ahead.

Our first IUI wasn’t succesful. But his advice made the outcome less overwhelming.

The second IUI was much more draining emotionally. But we were more ready to face it than we would have been had he not played advisor as well as physician.

Had I not taken his advice from day one, I would have made the journey much harder on myself.

And when I now look back on other challenges I’ve had, I can also pinpoint good advice coming my way. Sometimes I took it…sometimes I didn’t. So, the question is, what advice should you be taking at the moment?

Last Thoughts

So, our littly Miracle is thankfully on her way after two IUI cycles.

Other couples have to go through much more to hold their miracle children in their arms. We’re still praying for the last few months that lie ahead. But the journey so far has been miraculous in so many ways that we can’t but say thank You. Thank You for showing yourself in different ways through different people. You are always there Lord and may I remember these lessons, no matter what crosses our path in future seasons. I want to recognise Your hand, even in the difficult times.

Way Maker – My Story & the Lesson I Learnt in Exactly 1 Month During COVID-19

Way Maker – My Story & the Lesson I Learnt in Exactly 1 Month During COVID-19

So, I simply want to share my COVID-19 story with you guys.

I do think that God reveals Himself in the simplest, most beautiful ways sometimes. The subtleness is often exactly what you need to be reminded how gentle, caring and PRESENT our God is.

This story has a lot to do about South Africa’s lockdown chapter during the Corona pandemic, but the principles stay the same no matter what’s going on around you: my God cares enough to make it known that He is ever-present.

So, here goes.

Setting the Stage

Exactly one month ago, on 27 March 2020, I was not at my best. It was the start of lockdown, but as an introvert myself this fact in itself did not upset me as much as it did many others. So what was bugging me?

There was this sense of foreboding which I admit I allowed to take hold of me. What would the future hold? As someone stated very aptly, there was a sense of grief for the fact that life as we knew it was changing. Was that what got to me? Perhaps.

Also, even though I’m blessed to work in an industry that could continue operating during the worldwide pandemic, we weren’t completely unaffected. Clients were a little harder to come by, rates had to be lowered to accommodate customers. So, of course, there was the question – the fear – of whether we would survive throughout the crisis.

All of this DID lead me down the path of feeling somewhat depressed. I did NOT have my usual reservoir of joy supporting my emotions or enabling me to help those around me. I really felt down in the dumps.

But God knew what I needed.

The Way Maker Journey

Introducing Way Maker

Now let me make this clear: I know the song, but it’s not that I’ve heard it countless times. I don’t sing it in church every Sunday, because I admit I don’t get to church every Sunday. I don’t listen to gospel radio stations all day, because I work from home where I listen to instrumentals to keep focus.

But into my brain that Friday morning popped the word ‘Way Maker’. I knew about the song, so I Googled it. (For those who don’t know the song: read the beautiful lyrics by Sinach here)

And I found Way Maker on YouTube.

And I put in my earphones.

And I pushed ‘Play’.

And every word soaked into my being. Every word sung about depression…about Him being the Light in my dark moments…about working miracles when our humanly ways will definitely not be enough.

So, in those 8 minutes, God gave me back my hope. The hope I’ve held onto ever since I was a teenager and I grabbed hold of a belief that He has a plan with me, our country and His people. And His plans are always ongoing, no matter what.

So, I breathed again, listened to those videos ALL day…and saw how He provided each day over the coming weeks. For example, work may have not been in abundance as I was used to, but He provided enough for EACH DAY! He NEVER let me down.

And I thought that was my lesson.

But God was not finished.

Way Maker Across the World

So, you all have seen posts and videos from across the globe about how humanity has decided to stand together during this very trying time. Many people say that humanity is corrupted at our core, but in one of the most trying times in human history:

  •  It’s GOODNESS that is coming to the fore.
  • People SACRIFICE so much to help one another.
  • Communities are driven to SUPPORT each other.

Tough times bring out our TRUE selves, right?…and the world has proven that that which God has made us to be – people who live His values – is STILL at the centre of our beings.

But, back to Way Maker.

Have you taken note of some of the details of the positive stories people are sharing? Did you notice how many of them mention people singing ‘Way Maker’ to each other and frontline workers? This was happening in:

Was God simply trying to show ME that He is in control, or is this His beautiful golden thread making a path across the globe?

And STILL my God wasn’t done with showing me His beautiful hand at work.

Way Maker in Port Elizabeth (my home town)

So, as a country, South Africa has gotten through most of the lockdown period, but of course there is still a long time of challenges ahead. We have to rebuild our economy, small businesses are suffering and many people lost their jobs.

I look around me and have to force myself not to be overcome with sadness and worry for some of my friends’ current predicaments.

And then God sends me this.

I see it in my Facebook feed. I live in PE, so of course I watch it. It’s good news: a COVID patient is released!!!

But listen closely.

What song is playing in the background at the beginning of the video (try to listen in between the voices)?

Yes. The song that has become my anthem…the world’s anthem?

Way Maker.

God Makes a Way – Always

I can’t but see His beautiful golden thread that has been traveling with me SINCE DAY 1. And it’s only a confirmation of what He has done for me my whole life.

He is ALWAYS present.

He is ALWAYS helping.

I know all of you may not feel, hear or see it at the moment; but I pray that one day you will look back and the picture will become clear for you.

For now, this is my COVID-19 miracle.

I pray for each one of you out there that needs your own type of miracle.

I know my Way Maker is ready and able to show you the way. And please share your own lockdown stories so we can encourage each other.

Blessings to all of you.

I Didn’t Want a Dog That Sheds

I will be honest. I did not always LOVE dogs.

[Funny fact: Loving dogs was a prerequisite for anyone who wanted to date my husband…somehow he still agreed to our first date. And the rest as they say, is history.]

Not that I didn’t like dogs at all. I just preferred them keeping their distance. I did not want them in my face…I grew up with the notion that a dog must know its place, and that’s NOT on the couch! I also hated the sorrow I felt whenever I saw one suffer. Better to keep them all far away to protect my clothes from stray hairs and my heart from breaking.

[Much like human relationships for some people?…I don’t know.]

Thankfully, along the line I DID fall in love with dogs all over again. It was perhaps due to meeting just the right kind of dog (the Italian Greyhound, Kiwi, to whom my husband belonged) at the right time. One that steals your heart because she knew just when to cuddle alongside you when you’re in the most tense hour of your life and in need of some sign from God that all is going to be okay.

greyhound with blue blanket
Kiwi snuggling up.

Yes, I believe He uses four legged friends in our lives. He has done so with me time and time again.

But back to the dogs and I.

So, I fell in love with dogs, wanting to save all of them, adopting another Italian Greyhound, Skooby, crying in exasperation when she was a puppy and chewed everything and refused to listen. I knew nothing about teaching her manners. I DO NOT like being out of control and with Skooby I seldom was.

brown dog on grey couch
Skooby being…Skooby

Here’s where you can start seeing how He used dogs in my life: I só had to learn to let go of wanting to control everything in life. I had to realise days will not always go according to plan. And that it’s okay. I won’t combust.

Fast forward a few years and I’ve come to love our dogs – and most others – with all my heart. I would kill for them. I admit I often organise my life around them. I used to laugh at others who call their dogs their children, but now I know I’m in denial if I don’t fall somewhat into that group. We call ours our Oomans…not quite human, but close, right?

But I still have limits!!! I still want control!

brown dog
Skooby…my Ooman

We knew at some stage our old Kiwi – the one who originally softened my heart towards her species – would pass away, because she was at least 14 years old (it’s hard to know age of rescue animals you don’t adopt as puppies). We also knew we would have to get another pooch as a friend for Skooby.

My words about the new adoption: ‘I just don’t want a dog that sheds!‘.

That was basically my only – passionately expressed – condition.

Note: if you didn’t know, greyhounds are the most fabulous dogs with great characters and they don’t shed much. No hair on clothes, people! Awesome!

And so Kiwi’s last days came. We had to make the heart wrenching decision to let her go after a stroke that left her not quite herself anymore. We had no idea if she was suffering, so we decided her passing on is the most merciful for her.

Grey dog
We shall never forget you, Kiwi.

It was tough. That dog was therapy for both my husband and I in various stages of our lives.

So, which Ooman next?

Enter: Bonnie.

Now let me be clear, we had our list of specifications. We first wanted another greyhound, but they’re scarce and we wanted a rescue animal, not a puppy from a breeder.

So, what other type of dog will work?

We had size limitations, because our doggy-door is only that big.

And we wanted a playful one to help stimulate Skooby, our 3-year old hyper-active woof, while we work.

I wanted a softhearted dog – even though Kiwi can’t be replaced, I knew the value of having an intuitive dog that helps you through the tough days.

And then there’s the hair. That’s a no-brainer.

Right?

No.

We entered the last kennel at Save-a-pet to have a look at her friend who was a small mixed-breed, (who didn’t really shed much). Bonnie showed her timidness and almost fear just for seeing new people in her space.

Hubby went to sit and play with the friend and this gave Bonnie a chance to relax. And when she relaxed, she played. And then she placed her beautiful brown face in my husband’s hands and looked into his eyes. This sounds so cliche…but it’s so true! Yup, dogs steal our hearts.

She was bigger than we wanted, but not TOO huge.

Did we have a winner?

I won’t bore you with the details. We did consider taking the other one. And we had to have a meet-and-greet with Skooby…bla bla bla.

But yes, a few hours later Bonnie came home with us.

Beagle in car
Bonnie…in the car before she was named

Guess what…SHE SHEDS.

two dogs in car
Skooby doesn’t know what to make of Bonnie yet.

Am I still alive? Yes

Did I combust finding hair on the couch? No

Did I have to rearrange my life again, doing more grooming than I ever thought I would with a dog? Yes

Do I mind? Strangely, NO.

Life is more important than me wanting an effortless life.

Giving shelter to a lost soul – even a dog – has more purpose than making life easy for myself.

Finding a dog that is an answer to my very earnest prayers in all except for one area, is still a miracle.

dog
Bonnie crawling onto your lap…stealth mode…one moment you’re petting her, the next moment you’re holding her. ‘Just a little more love, please…’

She has the sweetest nature that steals anyone’s heart the moment you meet her. She settled in so quickly. (another answer to prayer after being traumatised by raising a puppy haha…yes, I’m a little dramatic, but there’s truth in that statement.)

And oh, how she and Skooby can play! It took a few days, but I think they call each other friends now.

man, woman, two dogs
At the shelter…another pooch found a home.

And she’s OUR Ooman.

But here’s what I also realised: my immense need to be in control and make perfect decisions in life, needed some honing. My desire to have perfect situations that lead to the best outcomes in life, is a bit unrealistic. My fear of failing in situations if I’m not properly prepared, is now unfounded.

two dogs on couch
She quickly made herself at home.

I thought I would be much more irritated and upset with a shedding dog. Remember, this is the girl who didn’t want anything to do with dogs for years, because of various practical and emotional reasons. I protected myself from all those possibilities.

I think God uses many ways to break down our walls and make us more ‘whole’ individuals; He shows us what we’re capable of, so we fear the future less.

Some may think me daft for making so much of simply getting another dog. But I had a few issues…and now, if I can live with – and LOVE – a dog that sheds, I feel more confident about facing other trials and tribulations…other situations I’ve comfortably avoided in life…

He did not give us a spirit of fear.

He’s slowly but surely showing me the truth of that; and as a bonus I got the best Ooman ever.

dog on couch
Sweet little Bonnie

Thanks Hubby, for introducing me to dogs. You, God and Oomans make a great team in turning me into the human I’m supposed to be in this world.

Fear vs Fearful

Fear vs Fearful

Here’s the power of words: It helped me understand myself better…and my God better.

Years ago I was a scared girl, inexperienced and doubting myself in everything. Thanks to amazing friends that God sent across my path, I soon conquered some of my inadequacies. Why? Because they helped me verbalize my thoughts and I started writing them down. Understanding my thoughts made it easier to deal with them.

Okay – there’s a whole psychological discussion we can have about the value of writing and speaking about your emotions and thoughts. But this isn’t what this blog is about.

Words also have the power to help us understand our Maker better. And today I realised the importance of understanding more sides to Him. The more I know and experience about Him and the more stories I have about Him in my life (words), the better it gets.

Examples:

  • He is the Lion, but also the Lamb
  • He is Love, but also justice and righteousness
  • He is understanding, but also expects certain things of us

Fear vs Fearful
Photo by Toni Oprea on Unsplash

Facing only one of these aspects can have us retreat from Him, or take liberty of His loving nature. But when we KNOW He is also the other, it adds a beautiful balance. To me it makes me want to know Him more…and become more like Him.

The process of discovery and putting words to what He does also helped me switch from simply being afraid (fearful) to fearing Him (the latter is the good thing we need to get to).

This Morning

This morning I read a passage that normally filled me with guilt and fear. Reading about how He got angry with the Israelites and sent other tribes against them is frightening. I don’t want Him to feel that way about me, right?

But something different happened in my soul this morning:

  • Reverence
  • Awe
  • Passion for righteousness

Why? Because of what I already know about Him.

This Past Year

I’ve had a very challenging year. Perhaps you’ve read some of my other blogs. But I can also say 2018 has been one of the best years. Why?

  • Because of how He guided me through dealing with loss and change
  • Because He sent people across my path whenever I needed them
  • Because He advised me
  • Because I saw Him help my loved ones

These experiences all got noted in my diary, the words plainly displaying my God’s characteristics. Did everything happen as I wished it would? No. But my God showed His power, care and foresight in sooooo many ways.

Result: I know Him to :

  • LOVE me
  • LOOK AFTER me
  • PROTECT me

Back to This Morning

Now I read about His wrath. He really got mad…and God is unchanging, so He still gets mad. Therefore, if I don’t listen, He will probably get mad at me too.

But looking from the perspective of this past year I know that what He chooses to do, say or feel towards my actions isn’t based on hate.

  • His actions are based on LOVE. If He prompts me to do something it’s because He LOVES the world and wants to LOVE the world through me.
  • When He tells me to become better tomorrow than I am today (more compassionate, less afraid, doing rather than simply talking), it’s because He’s LOOKING AFTER us on earth and He needs me to play my part. I signed up to be His ambassador on earth and that comes with certain expectations and requirements.
  • If He’s telling me to do this or not to do that, He’s probably PROTECTING me (and others) because He knows what’s coming.

These are characteristics I can FEAR, not BE AFRAID of.

Definitions

FEAR (in this context): To respect, revere and trust.

FEARFUL: Feeling or showing fear and anxiety.

Going Forward

Reading His words to the Israelites from this perspective, I pick up on passion for them, not simply being mad at them. He wished they would act differently for their own sakes and for the sake of the world. He had a plan and wanted to use them in it.

My God is not distant, apathetic or out for revenge. He is actively and passionately involved in our lives, for the better of us and humanity at large.

My feelings towards my God can be described with words of fear, but also of love and appreciation. This fills me with renewed passion to be the kind of believer He can use.