Author: Katie Schuermann

I believe the Holy Scriptures to be the inerrant Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit and fulfilled in Christ Jesus, our risen Lord and Savior. Therefore, I have faith that children are exactly what God tells us they are in His Word: a heritage to receive from Him. Children are not a prize for me to earn, a commodity for me to demand, nor an idol for me to worship. They are a gift which my Heavenly Father only has the privilege to bestow and to withhold. If God makes me a mother, then I can receive His good gift of a child with all joy and confidence in His love for me. If God does not make me a mother, then I can still know with all joy and confidence that God loves me completely in His perfect gift of the Child Jesus whose sacrifice on the cross atoned for my sin and reconciled me to my Heavenly Father. I am God’s own child, purchased and won by the blood of Jesus, and God promises in His Word that He will work all things - even my barrenness - for my eternal good. For this reason, I can in faith confess that my barrenness is a blessing.

“He Will Return” – Contest Winner

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!returnofchristicon

On this blessed Easter Day, it is our pleasure to share with you the winning submission to our Lenten writing contest.

We asked all of you to reflect on the prompt, “I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1), and your responses were overwhelmingly rich in wisdom and that special brand of perspective that comes from personal experience. You gave us much to ponder and contemplate this holy season, and we are so grateful for the opportunity to learn from all of you.

When it came down to the actual judging, it took two rounds of sorting and ranking for us to narrow down the entirety of the submissions to a final five. “This is hard!” was a constant refrain from those doing the reading and sorting. Thank you to everyone who participated and made the judging so difficult.

It is our joy to share with you our five favorite submissions over the next several weeks, starting with our contest winner, Emily Olson. Congratulations, Emily, on winning a museum-quality giclée print of artist Edward Riojas’ cover art for the second edition of He Remembers the Barren, and thank you for reminding all of us that, whatever our station in life, we are all waiting for the same, certain thing: Christ’s returning to us.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus!


I am not a patient woman.

I am impatient in my daily vocations. I drum my fingers on the steering wheel at stoplights. My frustration rises when my children ploddingly put on their shoes before school. I shift from one foot to another when my son prattles on about superhero plots and I need to make some calls. My temper grows short when dinner isn’t coming together quickly enough for my taste. I frustratedly text my husband “ETA?” when he’s two minutes past his expected arrival home.

And my impatience seeps past the everyday struggles to keep schedules and order. The relentless passage of time presses upon my flesh and my heart. I want our financial goals met now. I want sick and despondent friends and relatives healed and soothed immediately. I want to know my marriage will last and thrive for many decades and our children will grow to faithful and joyful adulthood. I want to know that I matter and those that I love matter. I want to know that we are not forgotten. Too often, this means I reach for my gleaming phone, impatient for another hit of dopamine, desiring connectivity amidst the gaping hole of mortality that hovers over us all.* Too often, this means I am angry and irritable, eating my bread anxiously and toiling miserably, fallibly trying to make this world and us and me matter.

So I sit in the pew, cognizant of the nervous flit of my thoughts, the selfish grasping of my desires, and the ultimate hardness of my heart. I am like Jonah, huddled in the back of a boat, trying in vain to hide from God.  I am like the citizens of Babel, mucking about in the mud of my own internal universe, enthralled at my own dirty and miniscule tower. I am like Pharaoh, obstinate and brittle, trapped in my pride. I do not deserve Christ. Yet here I am, unworthy and hopeless. I am seeking the only salvation possible.

Jesus comes to me.

“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32).

The pastor speaks His forgiveness.

“In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

The faith granted at my baptism hears the name of the triune God and listens.

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?”

The Word enters my frail ears and kindles my weak faith.

“And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost’” (Luke 15:4-6).

Jesus enables my quivering voice, and I sing, my heart breaking. Jesus has done what I never could.

“Yes, Father, yes, most willingly
I’ll bear what You command Me.
My will conforms to Your decree,
I’ll do what You have asked Me.”
O wondrous Love, what have You done!
The Father offers up His Son,
Desiring our salvation.
O Love, how strong You are to save!
You lay the One into the grave
Who built the earth’s foundation. (LSB 438:3)

I stand and file out into the aisle, and I step, haltingly, toward the altar.

Let all mortal flesh keep silence
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand
Christ our God to earth descending
Comes our homage to demand. (LSB 621:1)

Jesus comes right to my mouth, my tainted, impatient, sinful mouth. His scarred body touches my tongue, and I swallow. His blood spilled for the world splashes down my throat. I am cleansed and forgiven, again. I am restored and made new.

From the moment water and the Word combined to make me God’s child, He has relentlessly pursued me. Hopeless and impatient me falls away and falls apart again and again. And over and over, Christ inclines His loving ear to me and hears my desperate cry (Psalm 40:1). I know that the One thing needful will never leave me nor forsake me (Luke 10:42, Hebrews 13:5). Christ has promised, and He is faithful (Hebrews 10:23). He never fails. Amidst all of life’s incompletes and suffering, He remains, the Eternal Rock.

In the Word and in the Sacrament, I am immediately, and right now, with Christ.

I am not a patient woman. But Christ is patient and persistent, forgiving and loving. He will return to me again. I believe this. And so I wait.

By Emily Olson


* Idea acknowledgment to Peter Kreeft, quoted in 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke (p.46).

Submissions: Received.

Dear contest participants:

Your submissions have been received and distributed to the judges. Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom with us. We will treat them with the greatest care and respect.

God willing, look for the winning post here on Easter Sunday.

God’s blessings to all of you this Lenten-tide,

Your humble judges

Contest Details

Andy Bates and Sarah Gulseth of KFUO Radio’s “The Coffee Hour” chatted with us last week about our Lenten writing contest.

Listen here for details on what we’re looking for in your submission on the prompt, “I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1).

Remember, this contest is for anyone who breathes, has chromosomes, and reads the Bible.

Submit your entries to katie@katieschuermann.com by noon on March 25th to be considered for the grand prize: a museum-quality giclée print (14.7″ x 18″) of artist Edward Riojas’ cover art for the second edition of He Remembers the Barren.

Happy pondering and writing!

BARREN giclee image

Writing Contest: He Remembers the Barren

Dearly beloved readers:

The generous folk at Emmanuel Press are joining us in sponsoring a writing contest this Lent.

The purpose? To reflect on the goodness of the Lord as we wait on Him.

The prize? A museum-quality giclée print (14.7″ x 18″) of artist Edward Riojas’ cover art for the second edition of He Remembers the Barren:

BARREN giclee image

The contest rules? They are simple:

  • Who: Any person with a continental U.S. shipping address may submit an entry.
  • What: Write a reflection (no more than 800 words) on the following prompt: “I waited patiently for the LORD; He inclined to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1).
  • When: All entries must be submitted via email to katie@katieschuermann.com by noon on March 25, 2019, to be considered. There are no rules for formatting or style, but submissions will be judged on quality and content by both Emmanuel Press and the hosts of this blog.
  • Where: It will be our pleasure to publish the winning entry right here on this blog on Easter Sunday. One runner-up will also be published the following week.

We are certain your entries will be as distinct as God’s good gifts are specific. We wait eagerly for your submissions.

Sincerely,

Your HRTB Team

Jewelry Box

iurHe snuck up to my table when no one else was there.

“I know a bit of what you talk about.”

He paused, so I waited. I wasn’t quite certain what part of my presentation had resounded with him, and I didn’t want to assume.

“My only daughter was stillborn.”

Ah.

Something happens in my cheeks whenever someone tells me this. I don’t know what it looks like from the outside, but from the inside, it feels as if my skin releases from my muscles, as if my cheeks — in dutiful obedience to the speaker’s command — move into proper riverbed formation to direct the flow of any incoming tears.

“What was — is — your daughter’s name?”

“Sarah. She was born in 19 _ _.”

My breath caught in my throat. We looked at each other, and I debated whether or not to say it. What if I made things worse?

“That’s the year I was born. I am the age of your Sarah.”

He smiled and wiped a lone tear from one of his own riverbeds.

Then he told me stories. Stories about his work, about the many miscarriages his wife suffered after Sarah, about the way the children in his church would come up and start talking to him — “It hasn’t all been bad,” he assured. — about his love of working with wood, about how he made his wife’s casket when she died.

“She was the jewel of my life,” he said, “so I made a jewelry box to hold her.”

I don’t know how that gentleman felt when he eventually walked away from me, but I felt thankful that Sarah had — has — a father such as him to remember her and miss her and love her still.

 

All Kinds of Barrenness

IMG_0211Special thanks to Katy Cloninger for today’s guest post. Her words of empathy, compassion, and truth are a welcome start to the day.


What does it mean to be barren? Merriam-Webster coldly and bleakly defines it as “incapable of producing offspring,” or “not yet or not recently pregnant.” But on a personal level, there are as many kinds of barrenness as there are barren women.

Some women fall into what may be called the classic category: they have never been able to get pregnant, no matter how much they try to “take charge of their fertility.” Others have been able to conceive but not to carry a child to term. Yet others have carried a pregnancy to term, but the baby was stillborn. Lord, have mercy on us all.

Other women suffer from secondary infertility. They have had one or more children, but for whatever reason, or no apparent reason at all, they cannot have any more. Such cases are made even sadder when the one child a woman has is taken from her by SIDS or some other tragic circumstance. Lord, have mercy on us all.

There are women who have had abortions before they knew the value of life, or knew it but were coerced, and the procedure took away not only the child they had but the ability to have children later on. Or perhaps some other surgery, necessary to preserve their own life, robbed them of the ability to bring more life into the world. Lord, have mercy on us all.

Then there are those women who never found a suitable husband, though their greatest desire was to be a loving wife and mother. Others have found husbands, but their husbands have turned out not to want children, or there are difficulties consummating the marriage, or their husbands have abandoned them, terminating all dreams of a happy home full of children. Perhaps the husband is the sterile spouse. Or perhaps the husband met an untimely death, leaving his young and hopeful wife a widow in her prime childbearing years. Lord, have mercy on us all.

No doubt there are many more kinds of barrenness than I have named. And for every person touched by barrenness, the individual details and complications add layer upon layer of sorrow and grief. Often we feel completely unique and alone in our pain.

But that feeling is a satanic lie, for the Bible tells us so.

“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,” Isaiah prophesies of Jesus, “yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Is 53:4). This Jesus, the Son of the Virgin, indeed “grew up before [the LORD] like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground” (v. 2), for the very purpose that He would be “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (v. 3)—for us and for our salvation. Though our suffering is unique in some ways, it is common in that we all suffer the effects of sin; we all suffer the death-in-life of existing in a fallen world. We need a Savior to come and suffer for us the true forsaking of God so that we can be assured that God will never forsake us (Heb 13:5).

But because we are in Christ, our suffering leads ultimately to glorification. St. Peter instructs that “those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Pet 4:19), and to “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed” (v. 13). St. Paul picks up on the same theme. He reminds us that we are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him” (Rom 8:17). Paul later adds that “those whom [God] foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” (v. 29)—an image that is first cruciform, and only later glorified.

Nevertheless, Paul comforts us that our sufferings are brief and, with Peter, he encourages us to await the revelation of God’s glory in our now-broken selves: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom 8:18). Our glorification is so certain that Paul can speak of it in the past tense: “those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called he also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified” (v. 30). Even now, Paul tells us, the Holy Spirit is bringing forth fruit as we suffer; we can “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom 5:3–5).

In our present vale of tears, we may not know why God sends us this cross or that one. But we are assured that somehow, it is for our good: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28).

Our crosses, whatever they be, are always hard to bear—would be impossible to bear without God’s constant and mighty aid. But even if we are not bearing fruit in our wombs, the Holy Spirit is bearing fruit in us. So we wait with patience, trusting that the God who opens and closes our wombs knows best, and knowing that the glorification of our fallen world—and our fallen bodies—is at hand.


Katy Cloninger is a freelance copyeditor and the divorced mother of one. She has a BA in English from Newberry College and is a member of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, SC. She loves reading, writing, hearing, teaching, and singing about her Savior Jesus Christ and the marvelous truths of God’s Word.