Dancing Upon Barren Land: An interview with Lesli A. Westfall

dancing-upon-barren-landWhen experiencing infertility, a woman’s feelings about herself, her relationships with others and her belief in God become confused and complicated. Having experienced these emotions herself, Lesli A. Westfall has written Dancing Upon Barren Land: Prayer, Scripture Reflections, and Hope for Infertility.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your own struggle with infertility?

For me, as a young child I had always dreamed of being married and having children. Once I did marry, we waited to start a family. Our goal was to further our careers and to save up enough money to put a hefty down payment on a house—essentially what is now called within the fertility world “delayed parenting.”  Yet, there would be days I’d have this intense longing.

It was during a Mother’s Day church service when the pastor spoke on barrenness that stirred in me that childhood dream to have children. I left the church that day feeling a sense of peace and purpose in my life, to become a mother–finally. Since I had such a profound impression of God’s purpose in the Mother’s Day service, I just assumed that I would get pregnant easily, so I did not obtain diagnostic testing for my infertility.

As the months and years passed, no pregnancy.  Eventually, I saw the first fertility specialist at the age of 40, which for most medical professionals would be too late in life.  I had diagnostic tests, which revealed a few problems, and I had surgeries to correct them along with medicines to balance hormones. But still no baby after the corrective surgeries and thousands of dollars spent.

I sought another fertility specialist and went through additional treatments. With the last treatment, we were given the news, “With your age and egg maturity there is no hope for you to conceive.” I felt as if those words left me lifeless. I felt as if something died within my heart. The only thing I could think of to do after receiving this terrible report was to turn to God. I prayed asking God to mend my broken heart, which was shattered in a million pieces. Truly, he supernaturally brought healing to my confused mind and broken emotions.

Q: What does it mean to dance upon barren land

Dancing upon barren land means to enjoy life now, while you wait for life in your womb or to hold your adopted baby in your arms. You can learn to “dance” by discovering who you are in Christ, enjoying the relationships around you and exploring your passions and pursuing them along the journey to parenthood. I expand more on this in chapter five of the book, Living Life While You Wait. This scripture sums up “dancing upon barren land” in Romans 15:13: “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing as you abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Q: What lessons has God taught you through your journey

I can’t make things happen. No matter how hard I try to make it in my own strength, I can’t make a baby just appear. I’ve learned to trust God, His timing and His ways, even when I don’t understand (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Be led by peace and be in agreement with your spouse. There were many options presented along our fertility journey. Each fertility journey is different for each couple, so what might be the right plan or fertility treatment for one couple might not be the best plan for you. Asking God for peace through the process, discussing with my spouse all of the options and then coming to a mutual agreement has helped us tremendously.

God is in the “now.” We can tend to focus on God for the end result—the answered prayer of a child of our own—but we fail to recognize God is with us during the journey. I discovered He is with me now, to help me during the pain, disappointment, misunderstanding and confusion.

Q: Why did you write Dancing Upon Barren Land, and what do you hope readers will gain by reading it? 

From leading support groups I sensed a felt need for a resource to help women and couples going through infertility. Initially I just wanted to have a simple, small paperback a woman could tuck in her purse and just pull out when she felt the need to be spiritually uplifted. But the book has evolved and expanded due to my writing coach, Karen Porter’s, prompting. While she was reviewing and editing the prayers she said, “Lesli, you have lived through this struggle and are experiencing peace and joy. You should write how to live this thing out.”  So I did.

I hope readers will gain an understanding that:

  • they are not alone, God loves them and they are not forsaken
  • the prayer and scripture will sustain them in this hard journey
  • even though there may be conflict within relationships, there is also resolution
  • to discover joy and peace during the journey while they wait the desires of their hearts

Q: Dancing Upon Barren Land focuses on specific prayers for women to pray concerning their infertility. What are some of the things you encourage women to pray for?

First of all, I encourage them never to give up on praying for the desires of their heart even though their journey has been long or full of misunderstanding. Peace for their mind and emotions within their relationships and their fertility options. For God’s perfect will to be done and their hearts to be open to His will and plan on how to grow their families.

Q: I think we all can understand to some degree the physical tolls that infertility has on a woman, but what about the emotional and spiritual effects?

Infertility reaches to the core of who we are, therefore affecting our emotions (especially women). Women go through a range of emotions throughout the fertility journey. Initially when first diagnosed there’s a sense of denial or anger. As one moves along the path with months or years of no baby, there’s a sense of jealousy and envy. A woman can feel ashamed or even condemned by others because she can’t conceive. A deep sorrow can replace the once-desired child.

Spiritually, one’s view of God can be distorted through infertility. A woman may feel as if God is punishing her due to her lack of conceiving. She feels abandoned and forsaken by God and her church (spiritual) community. She wonders what the use of prayer is if God doesn’t hear and He does not answer.

Q: Tell us about your ministry that shares the name with your book Dancing Upon Barren Land.

Dancing Upon Barren Land — Spiritual Nourishment for the Infertility Road is a Christian online support ministry encouraging those grieving through infertility and sorrow from loss. Actually the ministry was birthed out of my own pain. After receiving a devastating doctor’s report from our last fertility treatment, there was a determination in me to reach out to others. Through a series of God-ordained events I was given money to begin the ministry that now reaches those hurting around the world. God knows how to bring joy and purpose even through the most difficult struggle. The online support offers a devotional, Christian resources, infertility etiquette, prayers and products. My heart is filled with compassion to reach those hurting through infertility in the hope of offering comfort and resources to ministry leaders, friends and family all through the online ministry.

 

Find out more about Westfall, and the Dancing Upon Barren Land book and ministry at www.DancingUponBarrenLand.com, or on Facebook and Twitter (@DUBLhope).

Click here to watch the Dancing Upon Barren Land video which features eight individuals sharing their stories about the journey through infertility.

{If you or someone you know would be interested in winning a copy of Dancing Upon Barren Land, just leave us a comment below–we will draw a winner next week! }

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