The Promise…

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This is the time of year…especially when the Winter has been long and cold…it feels like Spring will never come.  The landscape is gray and brown; the lingering snow piles are a dingy black, and the flora and fauna seem so dormant that a stranger to this world would actually declare them dead.

But if you slow down, look closely and pay close attention you will see the telltale signs that things are not really as they seem. The evergreen that is never fazed. Winter weeds that withstand even the harshest cold temps and the crocus…the small yet glorious promise from God that no matter how cold and long the Winter the Earth will bloom again.

I believe nature is a beautiful allegory of how God works in our lives and the promise that He is always creating new and beautiful things in our lives no matter how dead things may seem.

On Acceptance

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Recently I’ve been pondering the concept of acceptance since I really feel like God wants me to get to a place of accepting whatever life throws at me. From my own observation letting go, surrender, and acceptance is a process especially when it’s a big unplanned life situation such as childlessness or a broken relationship.

In the last two days I have heard two messages on acceptance and this came from two very different sources…a secular psychologist via a radio show and a minister. I have no doubt that both messages were sent straight from God as they both echoed the same points.

I know I have found myself crying out to God many, many times, “This is not how my life was supposed to turn out.” I think that’s probably what a lot of us have said to God at some point in our lives. I think part of the lie we in Western culture have believed is that if we take time to plan, work hard enough/believe hard enough that we will eventually live our dream and we will get all we want out of life.

It’s really, to put it mildly, a crock of bull.

The majority of humans on this planet wake up with just the basics in mind…food, water, and shelter not knowing if they’ll even have it that day. The minority in the first world wake up wondering if they’ll be fulfilled in their life and endeavors. While they have all they need and most of what they want they still end up feeling emptier at the end of the day then the person in a third-world country living in a lean-to hut who just had a meager bowl of rice to eat that day.

So, to say to God, “This is not how my life was supposed to turn out” is really questioning His sovereignty in our lives. What I am finally learning is that where I am today is EXACTLY where I am supposed to be. The same goes for you.

Now, you may be saying, “Well, what if I’ve made mistakes and now I seem to be paying the consequences.” Well, yes, our choices do help determine our circumstances because God allows us free will; however, God is with you in your free will too. Sometimes He allows those adverse consequences to mold us into what we are ultimately supposed to be because it wouldn’t have happened in any other way than the route you took.

See, God is still with us even when we screw up. He’s always waiting for us to quit fighting the process and to turn back to Him for wisdom. This brings up another subject that I know all too well. Sometimes we are in the position we are due to the decisions of others. I think that’s the hardest thing to accept, however, if we allow the decisions of others to destroy us it’s only because we have given them the power to destroy us. That is not a power we should allow them to have. Yes, we are affected, but God will use that abuse, desertion, and betrayal to put us on a path toward a bright future if we’ll just surrender to what He’s going to do through this season.

To sum it up: Acceptance means trusting that God has you right where you need to be even if it’s a place you never thought you would be.

Believe it my friends and live…

Breathing in Your Grace…

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Your Grace Finds Me…that Matt Redmon song was on the radio as I set off to do my Saturday morning errands.  It’s one of the songs that has spoken to the deep recesses of my heart during this season…grace in the midst of the storm…God’s little whispers, and sometimes outright shouts that everything will not only be okay it already is okay.

I was singing this at the top of my lungs in the car this morning not because my circumstances and emotions were in the right place but because sometimes we have to sing/speak of His unseen hand to declare to our unstable hearts that the Person we put our faith in is real.

Emotionally and circumstantially its not been the greatest week,  but yet I have been given a lot of protection, grace and favor this week too.

On Thursday night I came home to find my front door wide open.  This was after a wonderful dinner with a new-found friend who is walking the same journey as I.  We talked for three and a half hours.  Such a God connection as the story of our connecting came about purely by two…not just one…divinely appointed meetings.

So coming home to find my front door wide open was a buzz-kill for a moment anyway.  My front door needs to either be replaced or rehung as the house settling over the years has warped it.  This Summer it didn’t want to open so my husband did a temporary fix on it to give the locking mechanism more room to move.  Well, now that lower humidity has come with the colder weather the doorway has expanded and the mechanism doesn’t get good connection.  If I don’t get the deadbolt tightly secure the door will open with just a gust of wind.

Fortunately, a criminal did not come by and take advantage of the situation and even more miraculous was the fact that none of my cats…one in particular who is an escape artist…took advantage of the situation.  They were all inside when I got home.  My furnace was running like crazy, and the big evidence that the door had been open for hours was the fact that it was 93 degrees in my closed-off bedroom.

Grace.

Well, today as I ran errands I was looking for an outfit to wear to a wedding tomorrow.  Living on a single income for the past 10 months has really exercised my frugal muscles.  I get frugality naturally from the way I was raised, but let’s be honest, all girls like pretty new outfits.  I’m no exception.  So armed with a meager budget off shopping I go whispering a prayer.  Well, I found a pair of boots for $17 and a dress for $15.

Grace.

There’s a blood shortage in my area and because I am the universal blood type (O negative) I decided to stop in the blood center and donate.  A year ago I had left a much-loved coat there accidentally.  I had called back the next day to see if it was still there and the person on the phone assured me it wasn’t.  I believed them and prayed that whoever picked it up really needed it and would be blessed by it.  So what do I see hanging on the coat rack when I walked in the blood center today?  My coat!  I told the employee working up front, “Um, you’re going to think I’m crazy or trying to steal a coat, but I think that’s my coat.”. She said, “Did you leave it here over a year ago?”. I said, “Yes!”. She said, “Well, it’s yours because that’s how long its been hanging there.  We didn’t give up on its finding its owner.”

Grace.

To top the day off I stopped into Chick-Fil-A  for lunch since I had a gift card I had gotten for Christmas.  They were having “Circus Day” for the kids.  A friendly clown walked up and gave me a card (photos below) with scripture.

Ah, God whispers…this week audible shouts filled with Grace…
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A Season of Transition and Unsurpassed Grace

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I’ve been getting some new followers lately and some feedback on my older posts.  Since I haven’t written any new content in several months I was wondering what was generating the attention.  Well, I Googled and Bing-ed my blog title and my blog comes up as the the first to third on the hits list (depending on the day)  so I was like, “Whoa…”  I decided that it was sign that I write something again.   I’ve been wanting to write, but well, my life took a dramatic turn about 10 months ago. I’ve wanted to blog more times than I have, but I’ve just not been ready to share.  I’m still not sure if I’m ready to share, so I’m writing this not knowing than when I’m done if I’ll hit “Publish” or not.  I’m going to write the below with an effort to be honest yet honor the people that it could affect.  I never want to use my blog to expose or hurt anyone.  That is not my desire.  I also know the weightiness of putting your personal issues online.  So, the “issues” are not going to be put here.  Not the place.   I’m really a very private person by nature.  I have tons of  journal content.  Those books know my every feeling, so it’s all written down.  I think one day it might make a pretty doggone good book, but that’s years down the road if ever, only if God leads.  I also thought about whether or not to rename the blog as my life has taken such a dramatic turn, and my possible childbearing years are nearly over, but I still think it fits.  I’ll write more about that later on down the line.

So, time to get to the point…

My husband and I are separated.

I realize in this day and age that’s not a very big bomb-drop statement, but to someone who expected to be married forever those six words carry a lot of weight, sadness, and a whole boat-load of other emotions.  It’s commonplace until it happens to you.

Again, I”m not going into the nitty-gritty of the situation.  I still care very much for my husband, and one of the very few ways I can honor and care for him right now is to respect him.  Also, what goes on inside a marriage is very personal and very raw especially when a marriage is in distress.  This is OUR relationship and shouldn’t be fodder for public scrutiny.  I can’t say I’ve been one hundred percent perfect in this area, but through some mistakes and through healing I’ve come to the place that those issues are solely between my husband and I.  I say this knowing that our marriage has an affect on SO MANY people.  I have a small handful of trusted friends and a great counselor who know my side of the story.   I’ve been floored by just how many people it has affected, and we don’t even have children!!  When marriages break down (with children or not), societies break down.  Evidence proves that, but that’s another post for another day.

I guess you can say I’m spouse-less not by choice right now…like I wanted another label…

Did unplanned childlessness have an affect on our marriage?  I would be lying if I said, “No.”  It had a greater affect on both of us than I ever knew.  I made HUGE mistakes.  I didn’t always handle my grief maturely.  I grieved over an extended period of time, because infertility/childlessness is not something you can grieve for 6-12 months and move on with your life.  You deal with it all your life, and it does put a HUGE amount of pressure on  a marriage.  Do, I blame infertility for where we are now?  No.  I don’t.  Our marriage is way more complex than one issue,  but it was always one of the elephants in the room of our lives.  It’s the same as the loss of a living child or miscarriage.  There’s no denying the loss, and the loss will always be there. It has to be dealt with one way or the other, and this kind of loss takes time and lots of it.  Running from it or trying to avoid it only makes a larger crisis inevitable.

I cannot write everything I want to write in one blog post, and I don’t know how frequently the blog posts will come.  I’m not going to pressure myself into saying I have to write at any specific interval, but I want to say this today as a person of faith in Jesus Christ:

I’m closer to God than I’ve ever been.  He is so real to me even during some of the greatest emotional pain I’ve ever been through.

It would take a War and Peace-sized book to tell you the emotional and spiritual journey I’ve been through the last 10 months, and it’s far from over.  I can honestly say the almost 20 years of infertility/childlessness was a cakewalk compared to the last 4 years of marriage turmoil and subsequent separation; however, through all the horrendous pain there has been a tremendous amount of healing…healing I don’t think could have happened had I not been alone.  God says he always works everything for our good.  The key word is “works” because not all things are good.  The Bible gives so many examples of that, but in the end it works out for the good of all involved.

I believe in covenant marriage.  I do believe that once people marry it should be for life.  If not, why do even most secular vows consist of some version of “for better for worse, for richer or poorer, till death do us part”?  Because God ordained it to be that way.  Yes, divorce has always been allowed for in extreme situations, but when Jesus was questioned by the Pharisees in Matthew 19 he said, (paraphrase) “It’s only so because the hardness of your hearts”, and he goes on to  reiterate God’s plan for  the earthly permanence of  one-man, one-woman marriage.  When the feelings aren’t there anymore then love and commitment come down to a choice, and sometimes you have to grit your teeth and barrel through the hard times even when it seems like the hard times won’t end.

I don’t want to get on a soapbox, but this is what I believe, and this worldview is where I’ll come from in subsequent posts.  I don’t bash or judge anyone with opposing views.  I love divorced people…God loves divorced people.  I’m looking possible divorce smack-dab in the face.   Because of the tragedy of no-fault divorce in some states people don’t get a choice.  It happens, and none of us are immune.   Most likely, if your spouse wants out there’s not a thing you can do about that piece of paper that severs only the legal tie.  I believe the tie in Heaven remains until death do us part, and it even has eternal implications.

With that said I want to end this post on an upbeat note.  I really am doing okay.  God has shown me SO MUCH through this time, and he is changing me for the better!  Yes, the pain is unimaginable at times, but the pain is working in me things I should’ve allowed God to work in me years ago.  I’m stubborn, and I’m a slow learner, but through it all God has not abandoned or forsaken me.  I could be bitter and angry, and I have days when I have those feelings, but surprisingly, after some healing I’m not.  I’ve also had some great opportunities that have come through my situation and through this blog.  Because of the blog I am being contacted rather frequently by publications and media for interviews.  I do not want to waste any of this experience.  I want to minister/help others in some way whether it be big or small.  I’m not looking for notoriety.  I just want to write and use this medium to reach others as God sees fit; nothing more, nothing less.

Well, I guess I’m going to hit  “Publish”.

Questions and Answers

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I’ve been getting some new traffic and comments on my blog, and I’m always humbled by the comments I receive.  I also receive questions from time to time.  Most of the time I just respond to those questions directly to the commenter/asker, but I know not everyone puruses the comment section.  So, I’ll try to answer most of the questions I’ve received lately in this post (unless they are of a personal nature to either I or the commenter).  Here are the latest questions I’ve received with the corresponding answers.  Now, these are just my answers.  They are by no means “expert” by any stretch of the imagination.  They are just what I’ve found true in my life.

— How do you move with purpose/intention/motivation?  I too have days (weekends/holidays) of loneliness.  Unlike you, I struggle to find motivation to work around my house.  Why clean today, when I can clean tomorrow?  Why run that errand now?  I can do it later?  Why get out of bed now?  I can do that later too.  Sometimes I feel as though (to borrow the term) I am “chasing away boredom” when I move toward activities I enjoy.

These are good questions, and I promise you that I’m not trying to evade answering them by saying that  what gives YOU purpose, intention, and motivation will be different from what gives me purpose, intention and motivation.  This is something I have struggled with for years; however, because I have now entered a new season that has forced me to look head-on into my life’s purpose here is what I am learning…

You have to learn to work with the hand you’ve been dealt…you have to come to a place of acceptance.  This is paramount to living your life with purpose.  If you run from what is happening/has happened to you…or from what hasn’t happened…you will not find purpose, intention and motivation.  Once you come to the place of acceptance then you can start working on this.  Aceeptance is a process.  I came to the point of acceptance of my childlessness a couple of years ago.  That was good timing , because then I was dealt another life-altering situation that required has required me to go on the journey which is accepting another reality in which I have no control.

In summary, you have to find your own life outside of your identity as a childless woman.  Are you a wife, a daughter, an aunt, an employee etc. etc.?  I can guarantee you are something.  You are probably many things.  With that said from my personal beliefs and faith I am first and foremost a daughter of God.  My identity is first and foremost in Christ.  I honestly, don’t know how anyone gets through this life without faith in God.  I can honestly say that after the last four years I would be six feet under if it had not been for God and His strength to get me through.

As far as motivation that is personal too.  If you don’t feel like cleaning, doing errands, or even getting out of bed one day, and you are not forced by circumstances to do these things then DON’T DO THEM.   I find that a day of low motivation is usually followed by a day of higher motivation.  I had that experience this weekend.  I felt  like doing nothing on Saturday, but by Sunday I was a whirlwind of energy.  If low motivation is a chronic problem for you then you might need to get counseling or a life coach to help you find motivation for everyday living.  Someone once said, “The problem with life is that it’s so DAILY.”  That is so true.  We’d love every day to be an adventure of fun/new experiences, but the reality is most days are full of routine and mundaneness, but you can find joy in the mundane if you look hard enough.  I find that doing something for others is a kick start to get me out of bed and/or off the couch.  Also, I have to work.  Work is a big motivator for me because I like having a roof over my head and food on my table.

Pssst…moving towards activities you enjoy IS chasing away boredom.  That’s the point, so don’t second-guess doing what you enjoy.  As the old ad campaign says, “Just do it!”
— Is there an answer to meeting needs of kidless families in the church?  I was so lonely and trying so hard to connect in the church.  We finally started our own small group.  It attracted more young marrieds than intended, even though we carefully worded the description.  People read past that and expected it to be for young marrieds.

I won’t lie to you…meeting /finding childless families in church is hard, because we tend to be isolating by nature to protect oureselves since we are in the minority…that is if we don’t give up on church altogether which many of us sadly do.   Since my post about church and the childless is now a couple of years old I have gained a whole new perspective on it.  Church is filled with families, but I think if you look really hard you will find people who are lonely and in need of a friend.  I go to a very large church, and the key to finding social connection in church is to connect to something even if the people are not in your exact life situation.  Find a bible study/small group/activity group and just join or start/continue one and just minister to whomever shows up.  No, there are no guarantees that you’re going to find childless couples/people, but you might find a friend in an unexpected place.  In church and life in general I started making friends with folks whether or not they had kids or not.  This came after significant healing, but I finally  got tired of isolating myself because I couldn’t find the perfect childless friend(s).  When I got to that point my social life changed dramatically.  I now have several friends with children (mostly grown children now–but one with a 2 year old), and lo and behold, in the process I also have developed friendships with two childless women.  Sometimes when you quit looking so hard you find blessings in unexpected places and sometimes find what you were looking for in the first place.
—  I am divided in how to construct my use of time.  I used to be full force on a career.  Listening to wisdom of others, I didn’t want life to pass me by and have “only” my career and spouse at the end of my life.  I eased up on the career, but now find myself trying to figure out how to use my time.  Bored.  Lonely.  My path is shaped by God’s hand, I know.  I also believe I am responsible for my choices.  Not sure what this “freedom” and excess of time is supposed to be for.  Or how to commit 100% to the mundane without munchkins or being super-involved in work.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with focusing on one’s career if you are able to balance the rest of your life–big family or no family.  I say that being someone who never aspired to a career.  I only wanted to be a wife and mother.  For years I lamented the fact that I had to work, but yet I’ve done it so long now that I think I would be lost without it.  Sure, I’d like to work three days a week instead of five, but reality is it’s not going happen anytime soon if ever before I retire (if I retire–with the economy who knows?).

First, seek God.  I’m sure you have gifts and talents that could help someone…volunteer, find a social hobby.  If working fulfills you then find a lower-stress part time job you enjoy and go back to work on a limited basis.  Again, only you know what is right for you, but don’t think having a career as second best because for you it might be for the best.    I think looking back at the end of your life  if you’ve played the cards that God has dealt you to the best of your ability you’ll have no regrets.  If you don’t do something  you know God is telling you to do then you will have regrets.  God has withheld children for a reason.  That is not your responsibility or a reason to have regrets.   Quit regretting what is out of your control my friend!  It will only make you miserable.  I know.
— What would you tell yourself 5 to 10 years ago?  I want to live well and react wisely along this path.  What hindsight have you gained?

Wow, if you only knew what a loaded question that is.  Let me compose myself a bit…

Okay…here goes…if I could go back 5 to 10 years I would invest more in my relationships instead of focusing on what I didn’t have.  I would not let bitterness and jealousy take over my life to where I did serious damage to relationships that may or may not ever be healed.  I would enjoy the blessings I had in my life.  I would love more and wholeheartedly.  I would embrace life for what it is instead of what it’s not.  I would live AUTHENTICALLLY in each day like I’m doing my best to do now.  The hard truth is that you can’t go back and undo the past.  You can only go forward.  Apologize to those who you have hurt along the way, and accept their forgiveness if they’re willing to give it.  If they’re not then go forward anyway with or without that relationship.  Only you can choose how you live your life.  No one can make you happy.   Your happiness in fullfillment in life comes from only two things God and how you choose to live your life.

(Sorry…that question made me preach to  myself, but I hope you got some kind of answer out of it).

Wow, these were great questions that covered a lot of ground, but if you have more please send them on!  I’ll be happy to answer the best I can!

Blessings to you today!

It’s Been A While…

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…a year and two days exactly since my last post.  A lot has happened and is happening, and God has sent me on a journey that s stretching me in ways that I’ve never been stretched before.  Right now, I cannot go into details for a multitude of reasons.  Hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to blog about what the last year has been like.  All I can say right now is that God is showing me things beyond my imagination.  He’s also giving me strength to live in circumstances I never thought I could.  While my faith has been tested (and is being tested daily) I can honestly say I’m closer to God than I’ve ever been.  Do I have bad days?  Yes, very bad days; however, on those bad days God gives me the encouragement I need to keep going EVERY TIME.  When all you have left is God you realize that all you really need is Him.  I’m stronger in my faith than I’ve ever been even the midst of the greatest pain in my life.

I re-read my last post from May 10, 2012  and realized that it is more relevant to me today than it was a year and two days ago.  It’s not hard to find since it was last post before this, but for your convenience here’s a link:

http://awomanwithoutchildren.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/a-word-of-prayer-with-myself/

Looking back at it I realize God was preparing me for the journey I’m on now and why I had to put my childlessness behind me in order to cope with what I was getting ready to experience.   While my comprehension of my future is fraught with uncertainly I stand on this scripture:

” For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11  NIV

A Word of Prayer With Myself

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It’s the week that most childless women dread the most, the week many of us call “hell week”…the week leading up to Mother’s Day.   For years I joined in with the collective pity party of the non-moms, and while there’s a solidarity, an us-against-the-fertile-world feeling there’s not any real comfort in it, and honestly, it’s never made me feel better about the day

Mother’s Day is not really what I want to address  in this post though.  I’ve had to come to some very harsh realizations lately based on some circumstances and relational issues.  So, when I say what I say below please note I’m talking more to myself than anyone out there.  I just hope that, maybe, as an infertility/childless veteran I can spare someone  the same pitfalls I’ve experienced.

Are you ready?  Are you sure?  Here comes the sage advice from nearly 20 years of chidlessness….

Just get over it.

Is that a collective gasp I hear throughout the childless blogosphere?  Will I wake up to comments of outrage  in my inbox in the morning?  Maybe, but hear me out.  Again, this is me having a word of prayer with myself.

How many more years are you going to spend pining away for that child you’ll most likely never have?  How many more times will you let that non-existent child keep you from happiness?  God gave you one life to live, and while you’d like to march right up to His throne, stomp your foot, and demand an explanation for why He didn’t give you children that’s not going to happen.  So, the best thing you can do is trust His sovereignty and hand him all the mess and pain and tell Him he can have it.  (Disclaimer) If you don’t believe in God then give it back to the universe, mother nature, or whatever entity you believe controls everything.  If you believe in nothing then it’s all a moot point anyway, and so you better get over it and live this life to the fullest, right, because when it’s over it’s over.

Really, what good are you doing to yourself by dragging it with you like the proverbial ball or chain?  Quit waking up in the morning and putting on your garment of pain and self pity.  Honestly, it’s not attractive.  It’s a heavy, moth-eaten old garment of mourning.  It’s made of scratchy wool; it stinks; it weighs you down so get rid of it.  You’ve grieved long enough.  Even in the olden days the period of grief when a loved one died was usually one year.  While your grief is different it’s still grief.  You’ve been mired down in it for years, and it’s time to snap out of it.  Get help to snap out of it  if you need it.

I’ve come to another big realization…your family/friends don’t understand.   They really don’t, and that’s why they sometimes/many times they come off as aloof and uncaring.  They don’t know how you feel (unless they’ve been there themselves), and what they want is you and not this constant grief and sadness you emit.  This is particularly true with your spouse.  If you’re relatively new to this path your spouse may be very understanding.  They may go out of their way to do things to make you happy.  You know the worst thing you can do when they’re trying to make you happy?  Not be happy.  I’m sure your spouse is wonderful, but after years and years of trying to pick you up out of the mire they will eventually run out of emotional resources to continue.  They are dealing with this too, and you are doing them no favors by constantly wanting them to wallow in the mire with you.  Heck, some of them will eventually pack their bags and leave… if not physically then emotionally and intimately.  Don’t let that happen to you.

I wish I could say that there is some magical formula to make this happen.  There’s not.  It’s really making up your mind and determining in your heart that it’s time.  This may be a place you come to on your own, or like me, circumstances may drive you there.  I do, however, have a few ideas on changing your mindset.

  • Appreciate each day.  Wake up and instead of putting on that horrible garment of pain put on some light comfortable garments of gratitude and think about what’s good in your life.  Even if you’re not where you’d like to be there is something good going on in your life.  Think about that  instead of the negative things.
  • Appreciate what childlessness gives you.  If I’d had children when I wanted to I’d be dealing with teenage angst and college tuition bills.  I will never have to deal with either.  I have more disposable income, and I am free to change the direction of my career or even my address without the added stress of, “How will this affect the children?”  Face it, I have more freedom even if I would’ve given up that freedom gladly for children.  I might as well enjoy the freedom because I have it.
  • Plan a kick-butt vacation even if it’s a mini-one like we did last weekend.  We spent two nights in a B&B and did a bike trip down the Virginia Creeper Trail in Damascus, Virginia.  It didn’t cost too much, and we made some awesome memories.  Even if you can’t afford a couple of days take a short day trip near your own backyard.  As Ellie in up said, “Adventure is out there!”  You just have to get  your depressed, lazy butt up off the couch and find it.
  • Start dreaming again.  This is something I am actively having to work on.  It doesn’t come easy for me because my dreams stopped when I realized that children weren’t coming.  It was easier not to dream anymore and avoid any further pain.  What I am realizing is that by not dreaming I was causing myself more pain in the long run.

Again, this is a very blunt and direct post and a trip to the woodshed for myself, but sometimes instead of patting each other on the back and saying “there, there” sometimes we need to give each other and ourselves a swift kick in the bum.

So, consider this the swift kick we all need.