By Nicole Zasowski
God's Brave Women - Nicole's Story
When I stood in my white dress under a large oak tree and spoke my vows in front of our closest family and friends, I had no idea what our particular brand of “for better or for worse” would be. Not many of us do I suppose?
We were young when we got married and we had a plan. We knew where we were going to live and how many kids we were going to have and what our careers would look like in a given season. But life soon made it abundantly clear that you marry a person… not a plan.
What we didn’t know on that day was that our story would be significantly shaped by infertility and miscarriage as a result of a genetic diagnosis for which there is no treatment or cure. We experienced five miscarriages in five years. Each loss was equally devastating, but there was a cumulative impact to our grief. With each unwelcome good-bye, the grief became more overwhelming and hope became more difficult to access.
At first, I turned to performance and control. Outworking my pain and relying on my own strength had long been my usual strategies when I experienced hardship of any kind in my life. While these notions didn’t fit with what I knew to be true about God, there was a part of me that felt like if I could just prove my own goodness or work hard enough, I could protect myself from the pain of another devastating loss.
But for the first time in my life, it didn’t work. My own strength only left me feeling weak. My attempts to control our circumstances only led me to more insecurity.
"...There was a part of me that felt like if I could just prove my own goodness or work hard enough, I could protect myself from the pain of another devastating loss. But for the first time in my life, it didn’t work."
On one particularly difficult day, I was on the phone with my mentor, trying to make sense of the feelings inside of me. It was the first week of Advent following the lighting of the Hope candle. My mentor explained that he had been reflecting on the idea of hope. I was comforted by the whole conversation but there was one statement he made that stayed with me: “Hope only gets deployed in times of struggle,” he said.
Something inside me shifted upon hearing those words. This truth didn’t eliminate my pain, but it did change the pain. I wasn’t grateful for the struggle. But in the midst of my struggle, I was grateful to be a woman who knows hope.
"Hope only gets deployed in times of struggle... This truth didn’t eliminate my pain, but it did change the pain. I wasn’t grateful for the struggle. But in the midst of my struggle, I was grateful to be a woman who knows hope."
This idea caused me to question what it really looks like to be blessed. Often, we use the word “blessing” in times of thanksgiving. We picture a “blessed” life as a life of comfort, achievement, and filled with dreams that have become realities.
While I wouldn’t argue that life’s gifts are blessings, I recognized that my grief was also an undeniable avenue of God’s comfort and transformation in my life. My struggle had been a vehicle of hope.
"While I wouldn’t argue that life’s gifts are blessings, I recognized that my grief was also an undeniable avenue of God’s comfort and transformation in my life. My struggle had been a vehicle of hope."
I remembered the apostle Paul talking about the “thorn in his flesh” and expressing gratitude not for the thorn itself, but for the way it kept him dependent on Christ.
I love the way the Message version of 2 Corinthians 12:9 articulates this truth after Paul shares that he has begged God to remove this painful thorn three times:
“And then He told me:
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.
Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen.
I quit focusing on the handicap and began to appreciate the gift.”
Infertility and miscarriage is a story I would have never been brave enough to choose. It’s not the story I would have written for our family. It’s not the pain I pictured when I said “for better or for worse” on my wedding day.
But I can tell you with heartfelt honesty that while I’m not thankful for it, I do feel thankful in it because it’s the thorn that keeps me tethered to the hope of Christ. It’s the struggle that broke me open to God’s transformational work in my life. And it’s the heartache that showed me that a blessed life is not a life without challenge, but a life of growth and intimacy with Jesus.
"I can tell you with heartfelt honesty that while I’m not thankful for it, I do feel thankful in it because it’s the thorn that keeps me tethered to the hope of Christ... And it’s the heartache that showed me that a blessed life is not a life without challenge, but a life of growth and intimacy with Jesus."
Today, I am a woman who has said good-bye to five babies I will never get to meet this side of heaven. I am a woman who has welcomed three precious kids into the world. I am a woman who has found herself longing in prolonged seasons of waiting. And I am a woman who, statistically speaking, will likely face more loss in the future. And in every one of these circumstances, I am a woman who is blessed because a blessed person is someone who has been awakened to her hunger for Christ and is now ready to be filled with Christ alone.
Brave Woman Manifesto
Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story!
And by the way...
You are Brave!
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Nicole Zasowski is a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of From Lost to Found: Giving up what you think you want for what will set you free. As an old soul who wears her heart proudly on her sleeve, she enjoys writing and speaking on topics that merge her professional knowledge, faith, and personal experience. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and three young children.