My Mission this Mother’s Day

Not long after I signed with Harvest House Publishers, I was asked to contribute a chapter to a book they were publishing about infertility. Mothers in Waiting: Healing and Hope for Those with Empty Arms* is a collection of 30 women’s personal stories as they tried to become mothers. It was compiled by a mother-in-law–daughter-in-law team with the goal of meeting women along their infertility journeys so no one walks that tough path alone. I instantly agreed because that had also been my goal with Barren. You’ll find my story in chapter 9.

In the five years since I wrote Barren among the Fruitful, David and I have accepted that we won’t be biological parents. Our lives have been upended several times as we moved across the country twice, endured my 3 gynecological surgeries in 10 months, supported a loved one in prison for a crime that never happened, mourned career disappointments, and celebrated career successes. In hindsight, we see how God was able to use us and our resources differently in these and other situations because we weren’t raising kids. We had more time and attention to give, and we are thankful for that.

Don’t get me wrong–we would both still give our right arms to have had children. We are reminded of them each Mother’s and Father’s Day as so many churches dedicate babies, rightly extol the virtues of parenthood, and maybe give flowers to the moms. Each year we debate whether or not we will attend services on those holidays, and we usually agree that our emotions would inhibit any joyous corporate worship. I’m not sure that will ever change.

Sharable+5.pngWhile I will always remain tender and attentive to the causes of infertility and female cancers, the publications of books such as Mothers in Waiting and the incredible ministries that accompany many of them reveal how God is using other authors and speakers to show His love to people struggling to grow their families. As He has enabled them for this important work, God has prepared my heart, head, and life for a new mission.

I will be spending this summer in Israel digging at Tel Shimron and writing my next book, The Red-Haired Archaeologist Digs Israel (February 2021), and with a little luck I’ll “dig Egypt” the following year! God has made a way for me to return to my first love–biblical archaeology–and share the field’s insights into Scripture with the world. He has filled this “hopeful” woman with joy and thankfulness and excitement through situations I never could have manufactured myself. I understand that I would not have the time, energy, or will to devote to writing and travel if I were a mother, and I thank Him for this opportunity to serve Him and for the peace He has given me about the future.

God always knows the outcome before we know the circumstances.

*I receive no compensation for my contribution to or endorsement of this book.

The Other Pink Ribbon

Have you heard? October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

As too many women do, I have a significant family history of breast cancer. I even had my own breast-cancer scare a couple of years ago that mercifully ended with a negative biopsy.

I am thankful for the incredible strides researchers and doctors have made in breast cancer research. The disease’s national platform developed by charities, survivors, broadcasters, and NFL players’ shoes has no doubt aided those strides. There are marketing geniuses working for the breast cancer nonprofits…

…and I want to steal them to work for the other pink (and blue) ribbon of October.

What will it take for the infertility epidemic in this country to receive the kind of attention that other ribbon-causes get? Why aren’t these numbers alarming?

  • 40% of women currently in their twenties will suffer some form of infertility.
  • 30% of pregnancies end in miscarriage.
  • 0% of fertility treatments are covered by National health insurance programs.

Infertility is on the rise (for myriad reasons), costs of treatment are on the rise, marriages are breaking up, people are suffering; but no one besides the patients and their loved ones and doctors seems to care.

When will this get consistent national attention?

I observe that the only time infertility gets a soundbite on the news is when a celebrity confesses her (or his) struggle with it. But once that person has successfully started a family, the disease is never mentioned again. Do we all stop caring about other families as soon as our own medical procedure works or the long-awaited adoption comes through?

I want America’s population to know that October is also Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I want people to care more about the dying babies and the families who lose them or can’t create them, than they care about a woman’s right to prevent (with birth control) or kill (with abortions) those babies.

Oh, and how’s this for irony:

All those lumps in my breast were likely caused by years of hormone-based fertility treatments. Turns out the pain of infertility can return years after the treatments have ended.

The Dangerous Secret of Infertility

A new friend of mine asked me to guest post on her blog, In Due Time. Jump over there and register for another chance to win a signed copy of my book and a “Be Hopeful” necklace. Happy reading! Happy winning! –Amanda

I don’t think any young married woman expects to have difficulty conceiving. I was 24, and David and I had been married about 2 years when we “stopped preventing” pregnancy. I guess we were still in fairytale land to some degree. No longer newlyweds, but still gaga for each other. (Eleven years later, I’m happy to say we still are!) After almost 2 more years of not preventing, we knew we had a problem.

For me, the diagnoses of the infertility-causing Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and an autoimmune disease were embarrassing. Here I was: a woman with the reputation of accomplishing much of what she put her mind to who couldn’t do the very thing God had created her body to do. I realized I might break His very first commandment: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).

But there was hope! The fertility clinic we attended the first time said I was young, they saw this all the time, and they had a generic plan that was likely to work. To be honest, the whole experience was like being on a conveyer belt: pills, wait, ultrasounds, shot, intrauterine insemination, wait, negative pregnancy test, repeat. We later were embittered by their process, but leaving the clinic that first day we were thoroughly convinced by their nonchalance that we had nothing to worry about. We almost felt normal.

That’s when we decided not to breathe a word about our situation to anyone. We thought it would all be over soon, and we certainly didn’t want to have to talk about it with loved ones and nosy strangers alike.

If the fertility treatments had worked well, if we had birthed a healthy baby within the first year or two, and if we hadn’t had the additional heartbreak of miscarriage; then our “silence policy” would have made sense. Unfortunately 7 years and 5 miscarriages later, we were stuck on a deserted island surrounded by an ocean of secrets, tragedy, and despair. Yes, we had each other, but that really wasn’t enough.

So, what is a woman to do—tell the world you are pregnant just as soon as you know, building a potential support network if the worst happens, or wait until more people are asking why your waistline is widening than aren’t and hope you never need that support network? There isn’t an exact answer, but the safe road is probably straight down the middle. If you find you are pregnant, then tell those closest to you—those whom you trust. At the top of that list should be God. Let Him in on your fears, and allow Him to comfort you. [Amanda Hope Haley, Barren among the Fruitful (Nashville: HarperCollins Christian, 2014), 96.]

If I had it to do over again, the first person I would have told would have been my mama. She and I have always been best friends. She taught French at my high school, and I chose to have my locker right next to her room every year. I loved that she knew every detail of my life. And I’m pretty sure she loved that too. We were a constant support for each other (and you need that when you’re in high school—or teaching high schoolers!).

I don’t think there had ever been a secret between us, so there was no way I could hide the fact that I was keeping a secret. For years there was an elephant in the middle of every conversation. We could both see it, but I was the only one who knew what it was. She was hurt that I apparently no longer trusted her. I felt guilty for hurting her. She didn’t know she was hurting me every time she mentioned her future grandchildren or bought a bassinet to keep at her house “just in case.” It was a vicious cycle that damaged our relationship, and it was all my fault.

So why didn’t I just fess up? Because after you’ve started keeping a secret that is literally about life and death, it’s pretty hard to catch someone up years later.

As all secrets do, the truth eventually came tumbling out of me. Mama and Daddy found out what was going on after a Mother’s Day church service when I pulled her back down into the seat next to me and confessed I’d had 3 miscarriages. That was not ideal. To put it mildly.

What started out as David and me not wanting to “make a big deal” out of our situation grew into monster of a deal. It has taken years to repair the damage our secret did to our loved ones, and it multiplied our own pain exponentially when we didn’t allow others to comfort and pray for us.

So don’t do what we did. Take that middle road, and tell your loved ones what is happening in your life. The healing will start immediately.

Surviving Mother’s Day…with Some Covert Honesty

Last winter I had a telephone interview with Rachael Jackson, president of Shattered Media. She compiled a lot of what we discussed into an article for Shattered Magazine, hoping those who have friends and family suffering with infertility will learn what words are comforting and what words are hurtful, especially on Mother’s Day.

Survival Tip 5: “7 Things Not to Say to Couples Dealing With Infertility”

Amanda Hope Haley, author of Barren Among the Fruitful: Navigating Infertility with Hope, Wisdom, and Patience, and her husband struggled for infertility in silence for almost seven years. Seven Mother’s Days went by in silent pain. Month after month of trying, five miscarriages, and who knows how many negative pregnancy tests had ended with no children. Believing it was one thing God had created her to do, she turned inward—tracking her temperature, food, exercise, ovulation, everything. Amanda geared her entire life toward one major task: getting pregnant.

“Why am I not good enough?” Amanda wondered, all while struggling with shame and depression. For years, Amanda Hope Haley went to Mother’s Day services, baby showers, and baby dedications for all of her friends in her life group—seven of them to be exact—putting up the smile and her white picket fence. Amanda carried the burden alone until one day she could carry it no longer.

One Sunday morning, they were at the end of their rope and almost done trying to have children. Innocently, a guy at church asked her, “How’s it going?” and Amanda literally collapsed onto the floor and dissolved into a bucket of tears. The women came and picked her up to comfort her and hold her, and in the midst of their care, she blurted out loud that she had been in therapy, struggling with infertility and was incredibly messed up inside by depression. Their response to her “confession?” Well, what do you know, they had been going to therapy too. The women found common ground and support from each other as they shared their stories.

And it was that moment—when she fell apart and heard the stories of the women helping her—that she learned the Christian life is about relationships. Real, open, and authentic relationships where truth can be shared unashamedly because of the common bond in Christ, who has offered us all hope.

But sometimes, we just don’t know what to do in relationships with people who are struggling. And sometimes, when we don’t know what to say or do, we just turn away. And sometimes, we even say things that are incredibly hurtful and insensitive, even when spoken earnestly and in love.

So to help you this Mother’s Day, here is Amanda Hope Haley’s list of seven things to NOT say to couples enduring infertility:

1. “Sarah was 90 when she had children.”
Really? Does this need to be explained?

2. “Oh yeah, that happened to my sister.”
You might be trying to identify with your friend, but it minimizes the problem, and leaves her wondering why she is so hurt by it if everyone gets through it.

3. “Do you think maybe you’re not doing it right?”
Come on. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist.

4. “Well at least you know you can get pregnant.”
This was actually spoken to Amanda after one of her miscarriages and is not something a grieving woman wants or needs to hear after losing a child.

5. “Just give it time, you’re young and it will be fine.”
That was the comment at age 25. Everyone at the clinic said “it’s fine…” But at 30, everything changed and Amanda became “old.” The tone changed to “you waited too long.” She struggled with the guilt of deciding to get her education because she was young and had time, but then Amanda felt like she had done something wrong and it was somehow her fault for pursuing her degrees.

6. “You can always adopt.”
Her husband told her once that she was thinking about adoption like it was a consolation prize. But the fact was that she wasn’t wanting to adopt because she had a heart for it, she would have been adopting so that she could get to the goal of having a child. That’s not the heart for adoption; adoption is a calling. As a result of Amanda not feeling the call to adopt, people would act like it’s the most horrible thing in the world to not want to adopt but to desire biological children. Amanda knows God is blessing children through them in other ways they couldn’t if they had their own kids, and she is thankful for those opportunities. But they feel judged when people are astonished that they don’t choose to adopt one of the million kids in the world.

7. “Just pray harder.” “You’re such a good person.” “God will give you the desires of your heart.” “Just have faith and believe.”

A lot of people throw faith out as the solution. But she felt like she had a broken body when she couldn’t even do the one thing God had created women to do. With a broken spirit, too, she questioned God: “Why am I not good enough?” It wasn’t helpful to just tell her to have more faith, when it was God she was struggling with. There are unintended consequences to slapping a Bible verse on a problem and calling it done.

Instead of thinking that you have to have the answer, maybe just admit that you have no answers. Amanda Hope Haley suggests you ask people how they’re doing. It’s that simple. Don’t feel like you have to be so quick to defend God or cheer them up. Simply spend time with them, allowing them to be sad, and walking with them. There’s no pat answer to infertility on Mother’s Day. You just have to be on the journey with them.

The presence of Amanda’s friends who loved her and opened up to her allowed her to see God more clearly. Amanda shared with me the hope she finally sees in her infertility:

“God used that time to teach me a whole lot and the main thing is that it is not all about me. He taught me that it is about Him and His will. The biggest revelation I had during that period about His will (is that) God has one will and that is reconciliation of humanity to Himself. He has paths and plans for us, but everything He has planned for us in our lives is about His one will. I had to change my prayers from please give me a baby to please just let me be in your will. I know that I will only be happy when I am in your will.”

Before church on Sunday, post this on your social media. Maybe you’ll avoid some awkward conversations by letting Rachael and me do the complaining for you. 😉

So how do you respond to the comments that are meant to be helpful but hurt you instead? Comment below with your stories or tips, and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Barren among the Fruitful and a “Be Hopeful” necklace! I’ll contact the winner tomorrow. Good luck!

Surviving Mother’s Day…at Church

When David and I still lived in Middle Tennessee, we were super-involved with our church. We assumed (and assumed others assumed about us) that since we didn’t have children, we had more time to do stuff for the body. If we heard of a need somewhere, we did our best to help. That’s how we ended up hosting a Life Group, prepping Communion every Sunday, and basically being available to do whatever whenever. And we loved (almost) every minute of it.

About five years ago, those responsibilities dovetailed just before a Mother’s Day service. While I was pouring juice into hundreds of tiny cups, one of my LG friends told me she was miscarrying. Because my David was away for work and her husband was serving elsewhere in the building that morning, I sat with my friend and saw the Mother’s Day service through her eyes:

Opening Scripture: Psalm 139:13; Jeremiah 1:5; and every other “womb” verse you can think of
Praise Song: “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord (You Give and Take Away)”
Interlude: 10,000 baby dedications
Teaching: “Born of Flesh and Spirit”
Closing: Standing ovation for all the moms

I don’t remember the exact details of the service. I do remember how that Mother’s Day felt in light of the pain in my friend’s posture and face.

Survival Tip 4: Know the Best Place to Worship

Why do we join church families? Just to have somewhere to go on Sunday morning?

God wants us to worship in a community because we learn and grow better when we are together. We should be each other’s supporters, challengers, cheerleaders, and keepers. And we need to recognize when each role is appropriate.

Mother’s Day is one of those Sundays we choose to cheer for moms and the hard work they do all year. Certainly they deserve the praise! But we also need to be cognizant of our sisters who need support those same days.

One great thing about moms is that they don’t want to hurt others. By nature they are nurturers. I bet they’d be just as content with a subtle “you’re awesome!” from the pulpit, knowing the traditional fireworks display is hurting their infertile sisters.

Besides, it’s their kiddos’ drawings and husbands’ breakfasts that they look forward to and remember, right?

So I say, hey Sunday-morning service organizers: dial it back a notch. Save the baby dedications and emotional songs for another day.

(And kudos to our old church for doing just that in the following years!)

My anecdote tells the stories of two women: one who is miscarrying (my friend) and one who has accepted God’s plan for her not to have children (me). I was at the place spiritually and emotionally where I could honestly sing, “You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, ‘Lord, blessed be Your Name.'” My friend was NOT. She needed support (which I hope I offered) and the love and healing only God could give to her.

God will find you, no matter where you choose to worship Him on Mother’s Day. If you look at your church’s order of service and think, “I can’t do this,” then find a place and a way to honor Him privately. Tell Him about your pain and fear. Ask Him to heal your spirit. Then commit to living your life according to His plan for you.

That private worship time will honor God and bless you better than any corporate service where you spend 90 minutes fighting back tears.

So how do you worship God on Mother’s Day? Comment below with your stories or tips, and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Barren among the Fruitful and a “Be Hopeful” necklace!

Surviving Mother’s Day…with Family

David and I had been married for five years: the point when people stop asking “when will you” and start asking “why haven’t you had children?” We had just started treatments, and neither of us were ready to talk about our situation with anyone. (We weren’t even talking about it with each other very much!)

At a child’s birthday party, David and I were pleasantly laughing as the kiddo struggled to open my too-well-taped present when we heard an extended family member stage-whisper, “Look at Amanda smiling at the baby. Maybe she’ll let David have children after all.” I fought back tears as David made a quick goodbye to the parents, and we left.

Ah, family. Why do some of us think it is okay to check our tact at the door? Why do we assume we know everything about others’ lives? Family probably doesn’t need a special occasion to get into your business, but Mother’s Day will give the inconsiderate an extra-special license. Parenting is the theme of the day, so if you are present and married, they’ll be wondering why you aren’t diving into the festivities.

Survival Tip 3: Start Telling Your Story

A few years into our fertility adventure, I realized that the best way to interact with everyone I knew was with the truth. My silence only bred more questions in others.

But when you’re still working through the immediate pain of losing a child or not conceiving one, inconsiderate comments and questions hurt (no matter who says them) and can force you out of a cheerful child’s birthday party in a fit of tears and trembling.

So know where you are in your healing process. Surround yourself with your closest, most trusted family members, and make sure they know your situation. No one will protect you better than your favorite aunt or loving mom. They can watch out for you at events, advise you how to react, and tell you it is okay not to attend this birthday party or that holiday luncheon when you are at your lowest.

As you heal, you’ll find it is easier to tell everyone what is happening in your life, and I’d bet the inconsiderate comments cease. Knowledge can produce understanding, and understanding can yield love. And fertility patients need all the love and support they can get, especially from those who’ve known them all their lives.

So how do you prepare to face questions at holiday get-togethers? Comment below with your stories or tips, and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Barren among the Fruitful and a “Be Hopeful” necklace!

Surviving Mother’s Day…in the Media

Copper and I have a morning routine. We get David out the door with a full stomach, coffee in his hand, and lots of kisses; then we settle down in the living room for snuggle time. Copper falls asleep belly-up on my lap while I drink a cup of coffee and watch the local news. It’s a nice way for me to break up the morning between family time and work time. (Once the puppy is asleep, I hit the computer.)

This week, every morning news source I’ve seen opens with news about the royal birth. Welcome to the world, Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana! The Today Show has already done a segment on your future as a trend-setter. CBS this morning told me just how close you are to seizing the throne for yourself. And my local station couldn’t believe how great your mum looked 10 hours after your birth. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram–you’re already everywhere!

In years past this constant coverage would have bothered me a lot. In May 2011 I was alone the entire month. David was traveling Monday through Friday, and he was working at his office on the weekends. I was lonely, and when I wanted to escape my own translation work for a few minutes, all I could find were sitcoms, “reality” shows, and commercials with Mother’s Day themes. An already difficult time was exacerbated as my one place of escape became off-limits.

Survival Tip 2: Control the Flow of Information

I have clinical depression, and while we were trying to get pregnant it was not well managed. Hormones played a huge roll in my imbalances, and I couldn’t take the drugs I really needed to stay balanced because their safety for babies is uncertain. What I put into my body–and my mind–had immediate effects on my moods and my health. I should have been spending free moments with the people who loved me, not have been ruled by my feelings of sadness and fatigue and settled for the TV as a companion.

Anyone who feels punished by Mother’s Day can’t do anything about the physical signs of it all over town, but he or she can choose to cut off the TV, smartphone, computer, and tablet. In my opinion, a hiatus from technology (excepting this blog, of course! 😉 ) can save you from unnecessary pain and force you to interact with human beings who, when chosen wisely, will love and support you when you most need it.

So how do you keep up with the world but avoid the news and commercials you don’t need to see? Comment below with your stories or tips, and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Barren among the Fruitful and a “Be Hopeful” necklace!

Surviving Mother’s Day…at the Mall

It was the last Saturday before Christmas, and Daddy needed me to go pick up a pair of earrings at the mall for my mother. It was pouring rain. Cars and people were everywhere. The only way to get a parking place in the mall’s lot was to stalk another shopper to his or her car. (But I’m not particularly stealthy.)

Then I saw it: a free space at the front of an aisle. I said thank you to my 4-wheel drive and whipped into the place backward. I wouldn’t have to park at a Chuck-E-Cheese and hike across a 6-lane road and the entire mall lot to get to one store and make my 30-second transaction.

The car was off, my purse was in my lap, and I was unbuckling when I saw, “Reserved for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers.” I cried ugly tears for 10 minutes then moved my car to the Chuck-E-Cheese.

Why did a fake parking sign instigate my nervous breakdown? I had just suffered my fourth miscarriage, and that sign was taunting me: “Hey, Amanda, you aren’t good enough to park here. Only people who give birth have a right to spend their money here and enjoy the Christmas season.” Yes, that voice was only in my head, and yes, it was amplified by the hormone cocktail saturating my recently-pregnant brain.

Similar events played out around almost every holiday during the 7 years David and I were trying to grow our family. Christmas was bad, but Mother’s Day was always the worst.

Survival Tip 1: Recognize Marketing in Action

When retailers decorate and advertise for Mother’s Day, they intend to play on the customers’ emotions. They want us to feel all sappy and lovey about our mamas so that we spend more money in their stores. Suddenly everything on the rack has “mom in mind.” Clothes, electronics, greeting cards–you name it. You don’t even have to read the signage because the color schemes are all pastel. Stores feel as if they’ve been designed for women.

From the parking lot to the check-out counter, no store is safe. While I would never buy my mother something from a lingerie store, your local pink-and-black retailer of all-things lacy has posters reminding husbands to “make her feel like a bombshell.” Sporting goods and outdoor equipment stores suddenly stock everything in sickening shades of pink, “just for mom.” Even car dealerships give free oil changes–and special financing–to “keep mom safe.”

This is the commercialization of Mother’s Day, and it has undoubtedly damaged the loving spirit of the holiday. But don’t let it damage you.

When you are out doing your grocery shopping–or actually buying a gift for your own mom–let the signs remind you how the world sees mothers: as pawns. When you are filled with righteous indignation, make a choice to ignore the gimmicks and truly honor the great women in your life.

So how do you survive the Spring when Mother’s Day propaganda is everywhere you need to be? Comment below with your stories or tips, and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Barren among the Fruitful and a “Be Hopeful” necklace!

A Simply “Divine” Interview

While I’m consumed with unpacking and organizing for the next few days, read this interview I did with Kathy Harris for her blog, Divine Detour. I’ll be back soon with more posts for you. This old house and the new puppy are giving me tons of ideas!

What started you on your writing journey?

David and I were in and out of fertility clinics for seven years. During most of that time we kept our pain a secret, but as we started to tell others about our struggles, I became a lightning rod for women facing infertility themselves. In July 2012, two friends confessed to me the same tragedy within eight hours of each other; both had miscarriages the previous day and both were eight weeks pregnant at the time.

I called David from the quiet of my home office where I was editing part of The Voice Bible translation. I was disturbed. Shaking. Crying. Confused. Overreacting! But my David was patient with me and asked me the strangest question, “If you were to write a book about all this, what would you say?” I spent the next thirty to forty-five minutes writing. I left my office exhausted and crashed on the couch for a four-hour nap.

I was awakened from a very deep sleep by a publisher at Thomas Nelson calling to ask me about a ghostwriting project. During our “small talk,” I told him what had happened to our mutual friends and how upset I was that morning. He asked, “Would you be interested in writing a book about infertility?” Only then did I tell him about my crazy forty-five minutes and the outline sitting on my desk at that moment. His exact words are burned in my memory, “Polish it up, and send it to me by Friday.” I think I sent it to him by the next hour! That conversation led to me becoming part of the InScribed authors’ community.

Just as all good novels include a plot twist, our Author and Creator often writes a twist or two into our lives—some that ultimately bless us more than our original plan. Have you ever experienced such a “Divine Detour”?

Way back in 2002, my best friend dreamed I was an archaeologist in Israel and a mother of four children. She told me about David arriving at my dig site fresh off a plane—gathering our daughter in his arms, kissing me, and corralling our three unruly red-haired boys. It was the life I wanted and almost expected to have.

The many years David and I spent failing to deliver babies changed us not because we didn’t get what we wanted, but because we learned (the hard way!) to trust God’s plan for our lives. This was even when it is contrary to our own plans.

Since we accepted that children are not in our future, David and I have moved across the country twice. David is always flying somewhere for work, and I tag along since all I need to do my work is a laptop. We are constantly meeting new people, and we are thankful that we can send our meager resources outside of our family as He leads us to do. None of that would be possible if we had little ones at home.

Let’s talk about Barren among the Fruitful: Navigating Infertility with Hope, Wisdom, and Patience (Thomas Nelson, October 2014). Please tell us about it.

During my seven-year journey with infertility and miscarriage, I needed three things; information, companionship, and faith. None of these were fully addressed by the publishing world, whose few books on infertility focused on either secular “miracle cures” or religious “faith journeys.” Both types left me feeling physically broken and spiritually disconnected because the so-called miracles didn’t cure anything and the devotionals only highlighted my latent fear that I was an unfaithful daughter of God whom He found lacking.

I wrote Barren among the Fruitful primarily for women in their childbearing years, understanding that most of those readers are as I was, emotionally vulnerable and in need of strength and love. The book strives to surround the reader with a sense of community while providing honest facts. It does not promise that medicine will give her a child or that God will give her a child. It does lead her from confusion about infertility to understanding. From embarrassment over her perceived failure to openness. And most importantly, from the now-broken faith she has in herself to a perfect faith in God’s plan for her future.

But Barren is also for those who interact with infertility patients and that’s everyone. Infertility is on the rise and many doctors are anecdotally suggesting it will reach epidemic levels (over 40%) among young women in the next ten years. I like to think I’ve created a survey of the topic that quickly educates readers about the physical, financial, psychological, and spiritual struggles that accompany fertility treatment. Each chapter is titled with an off-the-cuff, sometimes hurtful, and often ridiculous comment I heard during my fertility journey, so readers can learn what to say (and what not to say!) to their hurting friends. It also includes the unique stories of multiple women, providing readers with a renewed hope for God’s plan for their future—with or without children.

A few fun questions…

When the words aren’t flowing—or when you want to celebrate if they are—what is your favorite comfort food and why?

I try to be really conscious of the foods I put in my mouth and body. I avoid all things artificial and super-processed, including the syrups cafes put in their flavored lattes. I typically take my coffee black. But Starbucks had a new item on their menus this past holiday season that has given me a crisis of conscience. The Chestnut Praline Latte (with an extra shot of espresso and half the syrup, thank you very much) is perfection. At the end of January, I’m still approaching the drive-thru speaker once a week and timidly asking, “Do you have the chestnut-praline syrup?” Bad, Amanda. Bad!

If you knew you couldn’t fail, what dream would you pursue?

While I was in grad school, my cell phone ringtone was the theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Yes, it’s a cliché, but every archaeologist wants to be Indiana Jones. I’m no different. My graduate degree is concentrated in biblical archaeology, and few times in my life have I been as happy as I was when sitting in a huge hole in Israel dusting dust off of dust. I would love to make archaeology my career, spending three months of the summer in the field and the rest of the year in a museum analyzing my finds. Real archaeologists never have Indiana Jones moments. We get over-the-moon excited when we find bichrome pottery in what we thought was a monochrome stratus, but we all dream of one day snatching our rimmed hats away from the traps of dangerous Nazi ark hunters!

What Bible passage or story best describes your journey of faith?

The most inspiring woman in the Bible, to me, is granted three verses of Scripture (Luke 2:36-38). Anna was the wife of a temple priest and she did not have children. She went to the temple courtyard every day and she prayed. Because of her faithfulness, God promised she’d see the Christ child before she died. At eighty-six, Anna was doing her habitual morning prayer when Mary and Joseph walked in with eight-day-old Jesus.

Anna’s story is in the gospel because she identified Jesus as the Messiah. The fact that she was childless is ancillary. I wish I knew more about her. I wish I knew how she survived month after month of disappointment. I wonder if she was ever pregnant. Did she have a miscarriage? Did she have a baby and then lose him or her to illness? Anna teaches us something very important. Her three verses of scripture prove that a child is not a reward for a woman’s faithfulness to God. Meeting God face-to-face is the reward.

I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.

When I was six years old, Daddy let me pick out a puppy from a litter of thirteen basset hounds. We named her Sofi, and she was all basset: stubborn, silly, and not-all-that brilliant. She died when I was in college, and I cried an entire day. Since then, I’ve always wanted another dog but my husband of twelve years resisted . . . until about two months ago. We will be picking up our first puppy on January 31st. He’s a basset hound, too, and we’ll call him Copper. Based on the short videos the breeder has been sending each week, we’re bringing home a lazy guy who loves to chew chew chew! . . . on those rare occasions when he’s awake.

Thanks, Amanda! It’s great having you as a guest at DivineDetour.

Publicity in Publishing

Since Barren among the Fruitful was released in October, I’ve realized that the writing of a manuscript is just the beginning of an author’s responsibilities. Apparently I now have to sell the book (imagine that!), which means doing interviews and other publicity-ish things. Any activity requiring a recording device is way outside of my comfort zone. I do my best thinking on paper (not on my feet), and I hate the sound of my own voice. The year I spent podcasting with A. J. has helped me with this mild phobia, but I still get nervous before each interview.

I think I’m slowly improving. My most recent radio interview went pretty well, and last week’s newspaper interview by Jason Reynolds of Tennessee Christian News was almost fun. I could tell by his questions that he’d actually read and personally identified with my book before calling me, and this made for an insightful discussion that explored the themes of the book and not just my tongue-in-cheek chapter titles.

Middle TN native discusses infertility

Sunday, November 16, 2014
Jason Reynolds

Infertility. That word has served as a curse for innumerable couples who have tried so desperately to conceive a child. One author is now sharing her own struggles with infertility and how that battle gave her a major insight into God.

Amanda Hope Haley, a Murfreesboro native, is the author of Barren Among the Fruitful. The title by Thomas Nelson is part of the InScribed collection, a series of books written by women for women.

“Having no child — that’s a big deal to me,” Haley told me. “I feel broken in my body; there is no way God wants me to feel that way.”

Haley, who now lives in Denver, lays open her painful seven-year struggle to conceive a child–and her miscarriages. In the end, she came to realize that God gives only one hope: Jesus. Having a child was not to be part of God’s plan for her and her husband, David.

The book includes personal stories by some of Haley’s friends on their own fertility struggles, including her own mother’s difficulties, as well as her husband’s perspective.

Haley also shares her extensive research about fertility medical data and health care/insurance facts. And, there is a wealth of questions for individual thought and group discussions.

“It’s the book I wish that I had when my husband and I were going through infertility struggles,” Haley said.

The book is not just for infertile women, as parents, friends and spouses can come away with something.

Haley said she hopes that infertile women who read the book can realize they are not alone, “like we felt. I hope these women feel a sense of community and this brings them closer to God. Whether you have a child or not, it’s about being closer to God. That’s my 20-20 hindsight.”

She addresses the well-intentioned but extremely hurtful things that people say to women about child-bearing, whether the person realizes she is struggling or not.

“It happens just as soon as you say, ‘I do,'” Haley writes. “People go from asking, ‘When are you getting married?’ to asking, ‘When are you having children?’ I was a twenty-two-year-old bride standing in the receiving line at my own wedding when I was first smacked with this question.”

In writing a story for the book, Haley’s mother, Dana Womack, learned that she had said hurtful things.

She did not let many know about her battle while she was trying to conceive a child, although some likely figured it out. People who did know would not always bring their children around the Haleys, believing that seeing the children would be too painful. But, she said, she and her husband would rather have been involved with the children, and the forced separation itself was painful.

The couple came to realize that they were focusing more on having a baby than they were on one another. Haley addresses that problem in “Barren.” David shares his side of the struggle, including what he had to do in his medical testing that every man dreads facing in such a situation (and something that I can personally relate to in my own fertility struggles). David handles the situation with humor.

Haley said she has been surprised at how well the book has resonated with men. She acknowledges that Barren is a “heavy book.”

“You have to look at the absurd situations” like David’s experience, she said. “He did a great job, and he is a man of few words.”

The couple is largely healed, she said. It has been three years since her last miscarriage. They are confident that God does not plan for them to become parents, although they are godparents. Their lifestyle does not allow for children, as they both travel frequently and “live in a Denver condo.”

“But we are happy.”

“Having a baby isn’t a happy ending; at most, it’s a stop along the path,” she writes. “Finding wholeness by accepting God’s plan is a happy ending.”

Haley, who has a degree in biblical archaeology, said she is working on a new book about reading the Bible in context. Cherry-picking Scriptures is one of her pet peeves. There is no release date yet for the book.

— Jason Reynolds is a staff writer for the Times-Gazette. Email him at jreynolds@t-g.com. Follow him on Twitter at @reynoldsjason.

I thank Jason for this write-up. He invested time in reading the book, talking to me, and writing this article. If you’d like to read more of his work about state, national, and world news affecting Tennessee Christians, then check out his blog.