Hey, Pastors. It’s Time the Church Talks about Infertility.

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Hey, Pastors,

Did you know that one of out of eight couples in the US has trouble either getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy?  One out of eight.  The numbers are even bigger when you consider those struggling with it throughout the world.

While you are preaching this Sunday, count the families in your congregation.  For every eight couples present, there’s a very good chance that one of them is either infertile or has miscarried.  It is possible that your church has numerous couples who have been walking through infertility with barely speaking a word about it.

We have come so far in our history as souls walking on this Earth, yet, we still do not talk about infertility; especially in the church setting.  I’ve always wondered why.  Is it because it involves sex?  Or, maybe it’s just awkward?  Could it be that advice is hard to give and take when dealing with infertility?  I suspect it might be all of these things.

I reached out once to a big national church – like huge – with a very well-known and eloquent Pastor.  I asked them, “What are you doing for people in your congregation who are struggling with infertility?”  They told me that they refer couples/singles who are infertile to their orphan care ministry.  Okay.  That is fine but adoption is a completely different experience than infertility.  Sure, they touch each other but the experiences as whole both require full attention.  They both involve lots of tears, courage, and resilience, but, orphan care, while wonderful, does not equate caring for the infertile.

Here’s the ugly truth, though.  Infertility impacts spirituality.  Let me repeat.

INFERTILITY IMPACTS SPIRITUALITY. 

Case in point:  Several years ago, a Pastor’s wife emailed me via this blog and poured her heart out to me.  She was angry at God for not answering her prayers for pregnancy.  She was confused and felt she could not say anything out loud due to being the Pastor’s wife. Instead of turning to those within her church who know her and love her, she sought me, a complete stranger who just happens to “get it” when it comes to infertility.  I did my best to encourage her and let her know that she is free to vent to me via email anytime she needed to.  However, this is not how it should be.  Infertility should not be a secret that is kept away for fear of showing to others that none of us are spiritual warriors all of the time.

Hey, Pastors.  It’s time the church breaks open the seal of secrecy when it comes to infertility.

I grew up attending a Southern Baptist church.  The Pastor and other members of the church were warm, kind and spiritually mature (at least, that is what I thought of them). However, after my hysterectomy in 1983 (age 11), I do not recall one single person with “authority” in the church reaching out to me about what had just happened.  While they provided some support to my parents, they did not really discuss at all the impact of infertility on my life and where God was in all of it. My mom recalls that “no one asked” when referring to how she dealt with it.  Instead, our family heard lots of “She can always adopt” and “God must have a reason for this”.

I’m sorry, but this is just wrong.  While I know now that adoption was the plan for my life and I absolutely adore my children, these types of comments from other Christians did not comfort, nor did they draw me closer to the Lord.  If a wife were to lose her husband, would the church say, “She can always remarry”?  I don’t think so.

Take a look at the story of Hannah:

1 Samuel 1-15

There was a certain man from Ramathaim, a Zuphite from the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.

Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the LordAlmighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah, he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”

Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house.  In her deep anguish, Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying,

Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth.  Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk, and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”

“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” 


Hannah was in anguish.  She was provoked until she wept.  Yet, she was misunderstood. Her pain was not clear until she bravely told of her grief.

Hey, Pastors.  There are a lot of Hannah’s in your congregation.  

You may not know it.  You may even be surprised by who they are, but they are there. They attend week after week.  They are some of your most dedicated volunteers, teach Sunday school classes and host small groups, pray for you and everyone else, and they are in pain.

Growing up with barrenness, I understand all too well that it can be a stinging arrow heading right into one’s heart.  It does not invite feelings of thankfulness.  It certainly does not create a sense of wholeness; physically or spiritually.  If the church is responsible for growing spiritual beings and encouraging the faithful, why does it do a good job at ignoring the infertile?  Scripture talks about it, so why doesn’t the modern-day church?

Hey, Pastors.  This is my challenge for you.  Learn about infertility.  Read my blog and the multitude of other blogs whose writers whisper their tears via the written word.  Talk to doctors who work with infertile couples.  Read and re-read the stories of barrenness in the Bible, and then, create an open dialog so that the Hannah’s (and spouses) in YOUR church can feel like they are not forgotten children of the Lord and that their church home is a soft spot to land in the midst of their struggle.

Hey, Pastors.  It’s Time the Church Talks about Infertility.

 

 

 

Don’t Let the “Bad Stories” Keep You From Adopting or Fostering {Adoption.com article}

Hello, Friends!

Did you know that May is National Foster Care Awareness Month?  I’ve said it before but I think that bringing awareness to the issues surrounding the foster care system should be a continual quest.

Recently, I wrote an article for Adoption.com regarding not letting the “bad stories” you hear keep you from foster parenting or adopting.  Let’s face it.  There are some not-so-savory stories out there about the difficulties of working within the system and caring for foster children, but there are also some wonderful stories, happy endings, and just brilliant examples of love, redemption, and determination.

You can read the article by clicking on this link:  Don’t Let the “Bad Stories” Keep You From Adopting or Fostering  I hope it helps you discern if foster parenting or adoption is the right path for you and your family.

As always, I wish you much love and many blessings,

Caroline

We Are Better Than That

A few months before the election, a male coworker told me he wanted to talk with me about my views on politics and asked if I could meet him in his office.  I was like, “Sure…?”  To be honest, as I walked into his office, I felt like I might have just entered into a lion’s den without knowing if it had a lion waiting to devour me.

He said, “I want to understand why you feel the way you do about politics and why I think you may be voting the way you are.”  I could have said, “Well, it’s kinda none of your business” but instead, I shared with him about my own life experiences (some amazing and some traumatic) that shaped my personal views and concerns regarding politics.  He shared his concerns as well.

Our views were pretty much opposite with the candidates, and he said a lot to me. However, do you know what wasn’t said?

  • He didn’t refer to me as a political label.
  • He didn’t tell me I am un-American because my views differed from him.
  • He didn’t question my faith or call me out for “not being a real Christian”.
  • He didn’t tell me that my opinion or concerns were invalid.
  • He didn’t make me feel unwelcome or not worthy of having a voice.
  • He didn’t call me “lazy”, “looking for a handout”, etc…
  • He didn’t disrespect me in any way, and I didn’t disrespect him.

As our conversation ended, he thanked me for having this discussion. We knew we hadn’t convinced each other of voting in a different manner, but we also knew that the point of our conversation was not to do this. We both walked away with a deeper level of understanding about each other’s political and social concerns.

I have thought about this conversation often in the past month or so, but most recently, this week after seeing all of the discourse via social media regarding the election.  My coworker and I still get along (SHOCKING!).  We still have mutual respect for each other (NO WAY!), and we actually work quite well together (SHUT THE FRONT DOOR).

If there is anything that we can learn from this crazy election cycle, subsequent new President, and social media nonsense, it is this:

We have a LOT of talking to do, and not just via comments on Facebook or other social media outlets.  I mean real conversations where we seek to understand and not just to respond.  We carry far too many misperceptions about each other. We won’t understand the why’s of what makes a person feel strongly about a particular subject unless we’ve actually engaged him or her in conversation about it.  We need to remember that we all carry life experiences that shape the decisions we make.

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We are Americans.  Let’s not allow the very freedom of democracy to split us apart.

We are better than that.

 

Just a Handful of Rocks {love pursues love}

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Just a handful of rocks and an old ring, right?  Well, not quite.

The week before Christmas, my daughter withdrew $100 out of her savings account so that she could purchase items for the homeless in our community.  You can read about her experience with this by clicking on this link: 7BillionOnes

Yesterday, I received a message that the gentleman my daughter met at a homeless camp had a gift for her.  He told our mutual friend, a photographer, that he wanted her to pick out some things from his collection as a thank you for her gifts to him.

I told my daughter that we had an errand to run and needed to stop by the studio before she went to gymnastics.  She was excited to go back to the photography studio as she just loves walking around it and looking at the incredible images on the walls.

When we got there, our friend took her to the office and told her that “D” had picked a few special pieces out for her and wanted her to look through the trinkets and rocks.  She was thrilled.

As I watched her little fingers meander their way through the bag, I couldn’t help but feel so humbled by it.  With an impending winter storm heading our way, and a recent event that affected “D”, his generosity and appreciation for what my daughter did for him a few weeks ago pressed right into my heart.

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To some, this handful of rocks and an old ring might seem like junk.

To my daughter, they are priceless. 

To some, this handful of rocks and an old ring might seem trivial.

To my daughter, they are meaningful.

To me, they are a powerful reminder that giving breeds giving. 

LOVE PURSUES LOVE.

Let us all stop minimizing what acts of kindness can do for each other.  I know my daughter’s experience interacting with our homeless friends has changed her and, oh my, it has changed me.

Friends, would you say a prayer tonight for “D” and all of our homeless friends?  Would you consider giving what you can to help change the life of a person who is homeless?

I promise your life will be changed because of it.

“I’m Helping the World”{my daughter’s 7 Billion Ones story}

For the past year or so, I’ve been involved in a movement born from the vision of a local professional photographer, Randy Bacon.  The movement, “7 Billion Ones” is fondly referred to as the “YOU Matter” movement.  Randy Bacon is the visionary behind it.

7 Billion Ones captures the stories of life and is accompanied by breathtaking portraits of the storytellers.  I shared my own life story for the project and found that not only is Randy an amazing photographer, he is also just an all-around awesome human being who values each and every person he comes in contact with.  I strongly encourage you to check out the 7 Billion Ones website.  It is powerful, humbling, and completely confirms that we are more alike than different.

The week before Christmas, my 8-yr-old daughter came up with one of the most endearing and uplifting ideas she has ever had.  I was moved by it but not completely surprised.  She has always had a generous spirit and a soft spot for homeless people.  I shared her idea with Randy and out of it, came a day that she and I will not forget.

 

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Photo Credit:  Randy Bacon (www.7billionones.org)

 

Here is the link to her story:  I’m Helping the World  Please take a moment to read it.  I’m sure you will be blessed.  I know I was.  Spending the time with my daughter on that special day was simply incredible.

Children have a way of frustrating us at times, but they also have a way of amazing us.  Her act of generosity did just that, and for that, I know full well what a blessing she is in my life and the lives of others.

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” – Charles Dickens

Six Things I’d Like You to Know About Adoption {adoption is not perfect}

November is National Adoption Awareness Month in the US.  It is a month when we celebrate and advocate for adoption.  Being an adoptive parent myself, I fully understand the highs and lows of it.  If you are considering building your family through adoption (especially after years of infertility), here are a few things I’d like for you to know.

  1. Even with the joys of adoption, there is sorrow.  You will find that you love your child or children so much that you grieve for their life stories.  You know that they have come to you after a tremendous amount of hardship and despair of their birth parent(s).  With adoption, comes loss.  Helping your children understand and grieve this is part of your responsibility as a parent.
  2. You won’t and can’t have all of the right words at the right time.  People may say things to you that just throw you off.  You usually find the right response hours later and after the moment is gone.  There are also questions and statements that your children will state at the most random of times.  Just be prepared to not be prepared times like this, because they will happen.
  3. Adoption doesn’t stop at the declaration of the Judge.  I’ve said it before, but in many ways, adoption is an evolutionary process.  As your children grow up, they will yearn for answers from you, and they will want to know more about their histories and birth families.  This is natural and should not be taken as a negative.  Your children love you.  They just want to know more.
  4. You will have moments when infertility still sneaks up on you.  Let me give you an example.  Recently, I spoke at an infertility conference hosted by a local church.  I had prepared what I was going to say and tried to stay on target.  About mid-way through, I found myself struggling to hold back tears.  I said, “I would not trade my kids for anyone else’s.  I just wish I would have carried them in my body.”   This statement was not planned.  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  These feelings and waves of emotions will stick with you long after adoption.
  5. You have to be flexible and adaptive in your approach to parenting.  As much as family members adore and deeply loves my children, I still catch them saying things like, “You never acted like that as a child.”  Typically, the way we parent is either very similar to our parents or it can be the exact opposite (if raised in an abusive, neglectful or troubled home).  I recall being a sensitive child and just the thought of making my mother cry was enough for me to stop whatever I was doing.  I’d like to be able to parent the same way or have the same expectations of my children, but I’ve learned that I cannot and must not do this.  I’ve had to adapt and be flexible about my expectations and approach to parenting.  What works for my friends’ kids or worked for me as a child, won’t work for mine, and that’s okay.
  6. Adoption is so amazing.  There is a deep joy that dwells within you when you look at the children whom God picked for you.  It is hard to describe and a bit ironic in how you just know that your kids were meant to be yours.  Is it perfect?  No.  Does it always go smoothly?  Absolutely not.  However, it is hard to deny that adoption is an amazing and incredible experience.

In celebration of National Adoption Awareness Month, we should focus not only on children and older youth in need of adoption and adoptive families but also on the authentic and honest sharing of experiences and lessons gained through adoption.

Adoption is not perfect, but my friends, neither are we.