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Each year my wife and I make all these grandiose plans to do ALL THE CHRISTMAS THINGS. And I promise myself I’ll have every gift purchased and in the mail much earlier than I ever do.

And each year, that never happens.

Maybe it’s because I’m not a kid anymore. Maybe it’s because the last few months of this year had a lot of big, adult things to deal with. Maybe it’s because of the state of the world. Maybe it’s all of the above.

But this year more than any other, it felt like it was September, I sneezed, and Christmas was somehow only a few days away.

One of those big things we faced a few weeks ago was a possible cancer diagnosis. Erin had a routine checkup and one hormone level came back very elevated. So elevated that her Doctor asked her to come in the very next day for additional testing.

The few days waiting for the results, and finally hearing the news that all was OK and that she was fine, were disquieted days.

If I’m honest, I wasn’t sure how to feel. I’m still not. I had to be brave for her. I had to be present, which was one of the hardest parts of this. I couldn’t just ignore the scary feelings. I couldn’t just pretend there were no hard parts. I had to sit in the mess and face some hard emotions and scary questions..

Last weekend, I finally had some time to decompress and begin processing all that had gone on over the last few weeks. I ended up stumbling upon my all time favorite Christmas TV Special, The Little Drummer Boy. It’s always been my favorite, but somehow I’ve not found it on TV in probably 20 years, which makes this all the more special. Because while I remember the overarching story (as I’m sure you do), I had totally forgotten the details.

Spoiler alert — if you’d prefer to watch it and not have the story spoiled, skip to the bottom.

Our little drummer boy (Aaron) had a great childhood. His parents loved him tremendously and he cared greatly for the animals on their little farm. His parents gifted him a little drum and out of the abundance of love in that gift, anytime the little boy played his little drum, the animals would dance.

Then it gets dark.

Thieves break in and burn the farm to the ground. They kill his father. And just before his mother is murdered, she hands him the little lamb and his drum and tells him to run.

Like I said, dark.

What was once a carefree, cared for little boy becomes a jaded, wounded and broken young man who finds himself leading his few remaining animals (including the little lamb) through the desert trying to survive. But Aaron still plays his drums, and the animals still dance.

It was the dancing animals that piqued the interest of a Ben Haramed, traveling entertainer/con-man. Ben immediately desires the dancing animals and essentially kidnaps Aaron and forces him to perform. Throughout their journeys they cross paths with the three Wise Men who, in need of a camel, inquire about buying Aaron’s camel. Ben Haramed, ever interested in getting rich, sees the predicament of the Wise Men and without telling the Wise Men of his greed, sell a camel he doesn’t own…. giving Aaron only a pittance of the money earned.

Our little drummer boy is able to break free and he, his little lamb and donkey then give chase, trying to find the Wise Men in an attempt to free their camel.

They finally catch up to the Wise Men in Bethlehem. Where, during the the crowds and commotion of the shepherds coming to see the newborn king and the excitement brought to the little town of Bethlehem because of the arrival of these Wise Men, the little lamb gets trampled and injured severely.

The Little Drummer Boy is heartbroken. He knows his most precious possession is is gravely wounded, and he knows he’s unable to do anything to fix it. But he has hope, for the Wise Men may know how to save his little lamb.

So the Little Drummer Boy pushes his way through the crowds, searching for and finally finding one of the Wise Men. He begs for help. The Wise Man looks at the little lamb and knows he’s unable to do anything, for the lamb is too gravely wounded. The Little Drummer Boy exclaims “But I don’t understand, you are a king?!

And the Wise Man responds and says, “A mortal king only…. but there is a King among Kings who would save your little friend”.

The Little Drummer Boy doesn’t understand and the Wise Man tells him he doesn’t need to understand. But to just go to the babe.

Our Little Drummer Boy lays down his lamb, approaches the new born king, and worships. And he plays his drum.

I’d forgotten that part of the story. Of course I knew the song. But over time I’d forgotten the story and I filled in those gaps with assumptions. I assumed the little boy wanted to worship, I assumed he wanted to bring something to the newborn King. But it wasn’t that at all. It wasn’t that the Little Drummer Boy wanted to bring a gift to the Christ because he was the Christ, it wasn’t that he’d journeyed to Bethlehem to give the honor due…

No, his story was simpler, more human. Our Little Drummer Boy had a need he knew he could never fulfill.

It was that need, that love for his little lamb, that drove him to seek out the Wise Men. And it was the Wise Men who pointed him to Christ.

And it was Christ who had what our Little Drummer Boy needed. What I needed.

Healing for his little lamb, and healing for his heart.

This weekend always brings a flood of emotion to Erin and I. A weekend of celebration, and rightfully so, for so many. A weekend where we celebrate our moms, grandmothers, aunts and the moms we adopted along the way.

But if you’re the 1 in 15 of couples who struggle with infertility, this weekend is different.

If you’re the 1 in 100 that has lost a child, this weekend is different.

This weekend may not be one of celebrating.

Maybe you didn’t go dress shopping for a new outfit. Maybe you won’t go to church this Sunday. Maybe you smile and celebrate with your friends while putting on a brave face that hides a desire long unfulfilled.

Maybe this weekend is more questions than answers.

Maybe this weekend will be different, because things are different.

Love

My wife and I have walked this infertility journey for a decade. The entirety of our marriage. We have felt alone. We have felt lost, and we have felt loss. And I’ve not always handled it well. My wife would tell you that for a long time I didn’t want to be a dad.

For most of my life, I was terrified of making the same mistakes my father made. So in my late teens, I came to the conclusion that I’d simply never have kids. It was simple, I could not mess up that which I do not have. I am incredibly grateful for the healing I’ve experienced since those days, I’m not that person any longer.

But still. Different.

It’s different when the very first question anyone asks is ‘do you have any kids?’. It’s different when you’re on a first name basis with your dog’s physical therapist but have never met a pediatrician. It’s different when you’ve made new friends, but you struggle to invite them over because you don’t have kids for their kids to play with, you don’t have a kids room they can play in.

It’s just, different.

But if I could say one thing to my wife, and to anyone who resonates with our story, it would be this.

Yes, things are different.

Circumstances are different. Hard and painful questions exist that do not have answers.

Yes, this weekend will be different.

But you are not different.

You not broken.

You are not forgotten.

Your story is not over.

You are not different.

Our life has really never been what my wife and I would consider normal.

The majority of our friends married much younger than we were (we were 32).

The majority of our friends live near family.

The majority of our friends have children.

And infertility isn’t a word most people use in their daily language.

But if you do, you know it’s a shadow, ever there. It’s the blank spot in pictures. It’s the awkwardness in conversation when you meet someone and they ask how many kids you have.

It’s the question, why?

And it’s the reason Mothers Day looks differently, too.

Being honest, we don’t use that word often. We don’t talk about it.

Not so much because it isn’t all of the things I just mentioned, but because in some ways, we’ve come to accept it. We’ve been married 9 years. We’ve had zero success. We’ve gone as far as we can medically.

At this point, we’re just used to it.

We’re not normal.

But, I’m learning normal is overrated.

My wife and I are best friends. We love spending time with each other. We have an amazing marriage that we’ve fought tooth and nail to grow. We have a beautiful family. So what if our kids have four legs. They’re our family.

And despite the challenges we face, and maybe even because of them, our life is beautiful. We have much to be grateful for.

Happy Mothers Day, Erin.

We aren’t ordinary. And I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

I love you.

I have never really wanted kids. Not in the same way I saw other guys want to be a dad. I often wondered what was wrong with me, was something missing or broken? Was I just not wired that way?

My wife has been incredibly gracious throughout this journey.  She’s walked with me, asked questions, challenged me, allowed time to process and think, to unpack things emotionally and work through all the reasons behind why I feel this way. And while I’ve worked through a great deal and can now say I’m not where I was, I don’t think I’ll ever get to a point where I yearn for kids like so many of dad-friends did.

A few nights ago as I was drifting off to sleep, another layer of the onion was peeled away.  And for a moment, I wasn’t 40 and married.  I was 15, at the state finals swim meet.  And instead of enjoying the memory of a great time, I was reminded of feeling like a burden. 

My father was there.  A rare occurrence.  He never came to my meets.  But because he was there, I felt like I needed somehow to provide him with a good Saturday to pay him back for his time. 

And while I lied there, I realized that I don’t think that my father ever saw us (his kids) as gifts. We were burdens. We were responsibilities. We weren’t to be treasured and cherished, we were to be taught and corrected. It’s how he was raised.

And I began to understand how much that experience colored my view of relationships. Relationships were not gifts to me. Not things to be cherished or nurtured, but burdens, responsibilities, something to be handled.

Ask my wife. She probably realized this about me 1.7 minutes after we were married. I’m not always the quickest. Quick or not, my point is the same. 

God rarely gives us a blessing that we will interpret as a burden. 

Am I saying that my issues from 25 years ago are the single cause of our infertility?  No.  I am emphatically not. 

But I am saying that what I’ve learned through all of this is that God has blessings for us, big blessings.  And those big blessings require big work. If we’ve not grown to the point where we can see these blessings as blessings, if instead we’ll see them as burdens, He may wait.

God designed relationships.  He loves them.  And He loves to put us in them.  But if we see them as burdens instead of blessings, we may find ourselves with many fewer relationships than we desire. 

God designed work.  He loves and values how we spend our time and energy. But if we see that promotion, or that new opportunity as a burden, instead of the blessing it actually is, we may not get as many opportunities in the future. 

Or, as Dave Hollis says in his book Get Out of Your Own Way, “We must risk it not being easy, for it to be better”.

If we want better, if we want the blessing, if we want relationships, or kids, or that promotion, or a better marriage, that’s good! God wants those things for us as well.

But we must be willing to change, to risk it being hard for it to be better. God desires to bless us. But some of his biggest blessings require us be mature enough to see the blessing for the blessing it is.

Don’t be afraid of hard. Because hard brings blessing.

Not because we recently moved and are still looking for a church to call home.  Not because we’re not feeling well (we feel great).  And not because it’s late and we’ll sleep in (we won’t).

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day.

For millions of people, that means a day full of cards, flowers, brunch and FaceTime or phone calls or actual face-to-face time.

For us, for my wife, that means it’s the one day we absolutely do not go to church.

Why?

Because more than anything, she wants to be a mom.

 

I don’t type those words lightly.

She has 100% of the desire.  And 0% of the results.

It’s been years.  We’re both healthy.  The doctors have no diagnosis.  The answer is just “no”.  And we don’t know why.

 

I don’t speak often of infertility.  It’s not something that most people are comfortable speaking about.  We either hear the jokes about “not doing it right” or folks already have a family.  When you’re 38, most of your friends have kids.  Lots of them.  And you’ve got a dog.

For my wife, that means she’s different, or somehow ‘less-than’ other women.  Think about it – what happens when a bunch of moms get together to hang out?  Their children rule the conversation.  When the topic is potty-training little Tommy, sharing stories about your rescue dog just makes you look weird.

So tomorrow, we don’t go to church.  We avoid social media.  We celebrate our moms and the moms in our lives, and Maple (our four-legged child) gives “Mom” a Mothers Day Card.  But we don’t go to church.

Because it hurts my wife too much.

If you know someone like my wife, someone who’s kids have fur, then take a moment tomorrow to send her a note.  Wish her a Happy Mothers Day.

You’ll never understand what it might mean.

So, tomorrow?  Tomorrow, I will love my wife.  I’ll continue to support her, to be a father to our pup, a husband to her, and I will remind her in every way she can that she is 100% a woman and 100% a mom, even if our kids have four legs.

 

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