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

pexels-photo-27633

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.

 

 

 

I’ll Play My Drum for You

photo (42)One of my favorite Christmas songs is “The Little Drummer Boy”.  There is something quite simplistic, yet deeply thoughtful (in my opinion) about this tune.  The lyrics tell the story of a boy whose only gift for the newborn King is the rhythmic tapping of his drum.

I remember watching the animated movie when I was younger.  The description of the movie is, “An orphan drummer boy who hated humanity finds his life changed forever when he meets three wise men on route to Bethlehem.” (www.imdb.com)  I would argue that his life changed more when he met the newborn King.  Much like those of us who claim Christ as our Savior, the people along the way certainly influenced our journey, but ultimately, meeting the Lord and reveling in His glory is what changed our lives.

The thought that our Savior was born in a lowly manger surrounded by very few people is quite humbling.  His worth values more than any riches.  He could have been born in the most glorious of places, and could have commanded the Earth to move.  And yet, the song of “The Little Drummer Boy” reminds me of the pureness of children and how their gifts, though small and often hand-made, carry far greater value than the store-bought gifts we often receive.  The words also speak of meeting the Lord where we are at; poor, with not much to offer.

I believe He doesn’t expect us to put out our finest wares for Him.  I believe He wants our gifts to be used and given in humility, kindness, and with sincere generosity.  I believe we are to use what we have been given to the best of our ability, and with the heart of a child.  These gifts of our time, service to others, loving acceptance, and consolation of each other are of value that will never fade.

What “drum” will you play to honor Him?  What will the rhythm of your life sound like?  The sounds may fade, and the act may be just one moment in time, but, the impact on others can be eternal.

Yes, Lord, I’ll play my drum for You.

My Life’s Song

Here we are in the last few days of November and the last week of National Adoption Month.  This past month I have posted something each day that I hope has inspired people to take care of children through adoption and foster care.  I’d like to share some insights I’ve learned as an adoptive parent.  Here’s the first one:

Through the adoption of my children I have learned that my life was planned and designed with great purpose.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that growing up I never really understood or appreciated the concept of a life planned in advance; especially if the plan included the heart-wrenching grief of infertility.  I did not comprehend how a loving God could or would allow infertility, even though barrenness is written about in Scripture.  I certainly never envisioned myself as a mother.  I just didn’t think it was “in the cards” for my life.

Seeking the Lord and the adoption of my children have both revealed to me that mothering was written into my life story.  My children were planned for me, and I was planned for them.  Despite the medical problem I had that resulted in being barren, I was still designed with the great purpose of motherhood by the God that created the Heavens and the Earth.

Some call it fate.  Some may say I lucked into being able to adopt.  I choose not to call it either of these things.  I call it the grace of the Lord and His Divine Plan.  I call it the presence of a living God whose works are ones of love.  I call it the pouring out of His blessings.  I call it a mission-filled and purposeful design.

Adoption really is my life’s song.  My children are the instruments.  Our experience together is the melody.  The Lord is the composer, and, from time to time, you just might catch me dancing to it.

“For I know the plans for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Beautiful for God (quote from Mother Teresa)

“Do you want to do something beautiful for God? There is a person who needs you. This is your chance.”
-Mother Teresa

I find this quote from Mother Teresa to be simple, powerful, and truthful.  I think that if you substitute the word child for the word person, it makes this quote even more awesome.  I hope your day is one that shines beauty for the Lord’s sake!

John 14:18 (HIS children)

I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.

-John 14:18

I was talking in church several years ago to a woman who had spent some time in children’s ministry.  Through the years she had ministered to many hurting children.  An issue that always seems to affect and burden children are when their fathers are absent in their lives.  By all means, I believe that many single women do a wonderful and fantastic job of raising children.  My grandmother raised my mother, and several siblings, after the death of my grandfather.  However, there is something special about the relationship with a father.

In my experience, children long for their fathers.  They want to have a decent, healthy relationship and to at least know they are loved.  The former children’s minister seemed to always have the right words to say to children who mourned their absent fathers.  She said to them, “You may not have an Earthly father by your side, but your Heavenly Father will never leave you and loves you more than anything.”

When I read the verse above, of course, my mind goes to adoption.  Children who were once fatherless are given the joy of having Earthly fathers through adoption.  I also believe that this Scripture verse is a promise to all of us.  We will not be left as orphans.  He has promised His love for all of us.  The Lord loves every human being on Earth.  We are HIS children, and He will not abandon us!

Have a super Sunday~

Isaiah 1:17 – defending the cause

Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows. – Isaiah 1:17

Couldn’t be more clear!  I love this verse and hope that I will pass along these directives to my children through words and actions.  I fear believers in Christ sometimes judge the oppressed, forget the orphans, and disregard widows.  Doing so bleeds right into injustice and does not show the goodness that is found in a Christ-filled life.

In my opinion, this verse speaks the essence of Christianity and the belief in a loving Heavenly Father who will always be the Father to the fatherless.

Have a beautiful Sunday!

Don’t Borrow Trouble

“Caroline, I learned raising you with all of your health problems that you can’t borrow trouble.” 

The quote above is from a conversation today with my mom about my son’s health.  A routine trip to the urgent care to make sure that bronchitis or pneumonia had not declared itself in my son’s lungs turned into a six-hour ordeal involving multiple breathing treatments and more doctor’s appointments and testing to come.  I’ll know more this week and am really trying to not borrow trouble, but I’m also really good at it.  If it was a salaried talent, I would be a “zillionairre” by now!

I admit there is hypocrisy with me in this area.  I just wrote a post about not allowing life’s distractions (Distractions, Distractions) to get in the way of keeping focus on the Lord, and here I am just a few days later getting distracted by the “what if’s”, “why now’s”, and tomorrow’s worries that may or may not even come to fruition.  I will suggest to others to not fret over what may or may not be a problem.  I’ll quote scripture and encourage others to pray, but often I do not take my own advice as well as I would like to admit.

I do not believe that the Lord wants us to fret over situations.  We are to cast all of our cares onto Him in good faith knowing that He has already declared the victories in our lives.  The walk on this Earth is hard.  Our money runs out, our relationships lay in ruins, and our bodies break-down; yet, He never changes.

HE.NEVER.CHANGES

While my mom told me not to borrow trouble, she also suggested to be prepared.  Learn about possible conditions, think through scenarios, and be open to the possibility that health matters can become serious.  She knows this first hand from raising me.  You can learn a little bit more about her in my post titled Mother’s Resilience that I wrote on Mother’s Day.  She has always told me to “trust my gut and intuition” when it comes to my children.  I feel that this gift is one the Lord has given to women.  That ability proved invaluable when she was raising me.  Her persistence and determination to get answers played a big role in saving my life during my illness.

So for now, I am going to walk in faith trusting the instinct the Lord has granted me with my children and trusting Him to work out the details.  I am going to put as much effort as I can to focus on the hope that comes from the Lord instead of the hap-hazards of being human.  Regardless of the outcome, I have comfort knowing that the Lord already has tomorrow’s troubles in His Heavenly Hands.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

– Jeremiah 29:11

Forgiven

The picture on the right is of a ring I wear nearly every day.  Besides my wedding ring and a necklace with the names of my children engraved on it, this ring is about the only consistent piece of jewelry I wear.  The word forgiven is engraved into the ring and serves as a gentle reminder to me that nothing else matters really except for the forgiveness and life I have in Christ.

On the inside of the ring, Eph. 1:7 is engraved.

In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.  Ephesians 1:7

Sometimes, I think about things I have done in the past and the struggle even now to live a life that models Christ to others.  I get caught up in wondering whether or not I’m “good enough” for the Lord.  Truthfully, I’m not good enough for Him.  No one is.

Often, my human desires get in the way of keeping my eyes, mind, and heart focused on Heavenly intentions.  I set goals that will enhance my walk with the Lord, but then fall short of completing them.  I get up every day saying and praying that I would act in ways pleasing to Him and that the love of Christ would show through my actions.  Then….life happens.  I get upset about something, or make a snap judgement about a situation, or not offer the same amount of grace that the Lord has given me over and over again, and that feeling of failing the Lord sinks in.

During these moments, I look down at my ring and see FORGIVEN.  It serves as a quiet reminder to me that He has already chosen His grace over my flaws.  He loves me despite all the messes I have made and will make until the day my eyes look upon Him.  I am already forgiven for things of the past and the times I acted as if I did not know Him.  Nothing will change the mighty forgiveness of the Lord.

His love is unfailing, His blood is redeeming, His mercy is miraculous, and His forgiveness is forever.

Messages of Tears

“There is a sacredness in tears.  They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.  They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.  They are messengers of overwhelming grief…and unspeakable love.”                              -Washington Irving

Gosh, I love this quote.  I L.O.V.E. it.  Each time my eyes skim over it and I soak it in, it  causes me to stop whatever I am doing.  I think about the tears shed worldwide on a daily basis.  I think about the tears that have been poured out of the deepest sorrow and joy throughout generations upon generations of humans.

I think about myself curling up in a fetal position sobbing from every pore of my being while mourning the loss of not being able to have a biological child.  I truly mourned this.  Those tears held within them my secrets, my grief, and my pain.  Those tears shed were not in vain.  I earned each one.  I deserved to let go of each one.  Those tears were for the girl I once was, and the mother I thought I would never be.

I also think about the tears of joy that have navigated their way down the landscape of my face. They too spoke volumes of resilience, thankfulness, and complete understanding.  Those tears released the power of love held within.  They too held their place of importance in the history of my life.  They too were for the little girl I once was, and the mother I was discovering myself to be.

I remember hearing the “sniffles” behind me at our adoption hearings.  I quickly looked around and saw family, friends, and even some child welfare professionals with tears rolling down their cheeks.  Each tear was a message of hope and hard work.  Each one represented the efforts made to keep my children safe, to help their birth parents, and to give them the permanent family they deserved.  The Judge stopped the court proceedings during my son’s adoption and gave me a moment to gather my tears back up.  He told me that he had seen many tears of sadness throughout his court room experience, and it was good to see tears of joy.

On a vastly more important level…the most important of all, I think about the tears that flowed down the faces of those who witnessed the crucifixion and death of Christ.  I think about those who must have had tears of awe-filled joy at realizing His resurrection.  The message of unspeakable love, unselfish love, and saving love that those tears gave is still heard and felt today.  At times, I am caught off guard during worship at church.  I find myself singing a song, staring at the Cross, and wiping away the droplets that resemble the overwhelming magnitude of my Savior’s grace and love for me.

I think I love this quote so much because it reminds me of the purpose and the purity behind each tear that falls from our eyes.  The voice held within our tears speaks so much more compared to the words that may or may not leave our mouths.  There is a sacredness there, and it should never be underestimated.

Don’t hold your tears hostage.  Don’t stifle their meaning.  Your tears may be speaking for you.  Allow them to.  Your tears may be speaking to you.  Listen to them.

Masks

My children have plenty of masks they like to wear around the house.  Their imaginations soar as they defeat the bad guys, sneak around like ninjas, or hide out like burglars.  Their masks bring a little more tangibility to their ideas, and for brief moments, they get to be someone different.

Christians (well, not only Christians) often wear “masks” too.  Some may be wearing the mask of wealth when, if truth were told, they are actually deep in debt.  Others may wear the mask of happiness although they are suffering through great sadness.  There’s the mask of strength that is worn by those trembling from weakness.  And, there’s the mask of contentment; although, one’s desires tend to chase him or her around.

The mask of popularity is one that is worn frequently; although, the person may actually be crumbling from poor self-esteem, low self-worth, and loneliness.  The “everything is fine” mask is one I wore often growing up.  I even topped it off with a great big smile.  The fact is that not everything was fine during my adolescents and young adulthood.  I struggled with thoughts and feelings of inadequacy, but no one knew it.  I was semi-popular, active, and out-going.  Even now, I pull out this mask to help get me through rough times.

For moms, we often wear the mask of “Super Mom” even though we barely have strength left in the day to kiss the little ones goodnight.  Our images on blogs, Facebook, Pinterest and any other social networking sites may really just cover up the day-to-day struggles we have as parents.  It is hard raising children in this fast paced world where reality show stars earn more of an income for getting drunk and acting foolish than those who storm through the trenches to save others, those who teach children, rebuild families, or compassionately love on people every day.  It is a struggle to raise children to be selfless and compassionate when the world expects them to be driven, number one, and egocentric.

I would much rather see an unveiled, unmasked version of someone’s strife than to walk by and not even notice because of the amazing job he or she is doing at covering up the pain.  Deep longing, jilted despair, and confusion are hidden from the rest of the world when those mighty masks are put on.  As a Christian, I too struggle at times making sense of the world around me, and the reason why things happen the way they do.  I even admit that I wear a mask that covers this doubt up a lot of the times.

I was reading in Luke Chapter 5 today and verses 29-32 jumped out at me.  This blog topic has been on my mind for the past few days, so it did not surprise me that the Lord led me to these verses.

2Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

It makes more sense to me for non-believers to see Christians for what we are; broken and imperfect sinners who know we are our strongest when we declare our weakness.  Instead, I fear what they see is what our masks represent; wealth, power, judgment, popularity, political motivation, and self-righteousness.

Imagine if we gathered the various masks we wear, threw them to the side, and showed ourselves as we really are.  Imagine the difference our actions, not our agendas, would make in the lives of others if we let love lead the way.

Imagine the reaction of others when our masks come off and we show Him to the world.  He is the healer.  He is the lifter of our heads.  His love and His sacrifice is the only “mask” we should be wearing.