Author: Rebecca Mayes

Bearing the Pain


A co-worker sent me the link below. It’s an eye-opening account of what it’s like to live with chronic pain. I would imagine many readers of this blog will be able to relate to Christine Miserandino’s descriptions. Perhaps it’s not physical pain you carry with you each day – perhaps it’s emotional or psychological. It doesn’t matter. Whatever it is, if it occurs each day, or for certain seasons of your life, you know what it means to wear the “I’m doing fine” mask, and it makes you weary and feeling closed off from the rest of the “healthy” world. See Christine’s unique analogy here: ButYouDon’

Allow me to put things into perspective, though.

First, from Romans 8:18: “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

And second, from the Lutheran Service Book, Hymn 423:

Jesus, refuge of the weary,

Blest Redeemer whom we love,

Fountain in life’s desert dreary,

Savior from the world above:

Often have Your eyes, offended,

Gazed upon the sinner’s fall;

Yet upon the cross extended,

You have borne the pain of all.

The Hoary Head*

The day was overcast, cold, and windy. I fumbled with the transferring of groceries from my Aldi cart to the empty bags in the back of the van. My two-year old sat in the cart, playfully kicking me with his legs as I did my work, adding to the annoyance of the morning. Forgot to wear gloves, didn’t bring enough bags, forgot to unload all the junk from the back of the van so I’d have room for groceries, child won’t stop whining….

Apparently I didn’t do a very good job of hiding my aggravation.

I heard the rattle of cart wheels behind me and then noticed the rattling stop as they reached my location. I waited for a minute or so and then glanced over my shoulder. There stood an elderly man in a thin coat and jeans, a patient smile parting the deep creases on his face. He held out a quarter and asked if he could take my cart for me. His face held my gaze for some time as I marveled at his resemblance to my own grandfather, who had left this world years ago. He was smaller in stature and his face was much gentler, but the similarity was enough to tug at my heart. With a cart already in his hand, it was obvious he was just relieving me from having to return my own.

“Oh–thank you,” I smiled back. “I’ll try and hurry.” I fumbled even more, feeling his silent presence at my back and knowing that he was just as cold as my son and I were.

I finished the unloading and closed the door. In a feeble attempt at being witty I wheeled the cart around towards the man and said with a smile, “Did you want the kid, too, or just the cart?”

Without missing a beat and without the slightest change in his kindly expression he responded: “If my wife were still with me we’d probably take you up on that. We never had any of our own. She had five misses and the doctor told us we shouldn’t try for any more.”

Somehow in the midst of him sharing his story the child was removed, the cart and money exchanged, and then I uttered a weak but sincere “Thank you” before he shuffled off, still smiling. I don’t remember giving him any other response. I felt speechless.

As I drove out of the parking lot, the tears came. Tears of embarrassment for sticking my foot in my mouth. Tears of gratitude for the whiny boy in the backseat. Tears of guilt as I recognized, yet again, how often this gift is taken for granted. Tears of sorrow for loved ones with an empty back seat. But mostly, tears of awe at being in the presence of such kindness, such an awareness of other’s struggles, and such thoughtfulness from someone who had lost so much. Even in what may be the last decade of his life, he was looking for ways to serve, to give out of what some might see as emptiness. But he didn’t look empty to me at all. I have a strong hunch that Someone was keeping him full.

* “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.” Proverbs 16:31, KJV


The Failure of Sex Education in the Church

One of the aspects of barrenness that is so awkward is the fact that the “success” of your marital relations (more modernly called your “sex life”) with your spouse is often scrutinized by those around you, either privately in their own minds, or quite publicly to your face. The joining of two fleshes into one in the bonds of holy matrimony used to be treated with such modesty and respect. No one would dare ask you whether you’re “doing it” right or if you’ve tried such-and-such a method. But the sexual revolution changed all that, and in numerous Christian publications we read that the act is a beautiful, natural part of marriage and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. We should celebrate our gift of sexuality and teach the children in our Church all they need to know to be prepared for utilizing this gift. But is this what the Bible says? When we blush at the questions about what’s wrong with our reproductive organs, is that for a good reason, or are we just prudes?

Linda's bookLinda Bartlett, former national president of Lutherans for Life, has just published The Failure of Sex Education in the Church: Mistaken Identity, Compromised Purity, which exposes the myths that our generation, as well as our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, have been taught to believe about what children should know to be prepared for marriage, the marital act, and procreation.

Bartlett begins by giving the necessary history of how the Church,  during the mid-20th century, put too much trust in “experts” instead of the inspired Word of God and willingly traded in our biblical understanding of manhood, womanhood, procreation, parenting, and purity for a more “scientific” approach to teaching children about the intimacies of marriage. Falsified, inaccurate, and even perverted studies on the “sexuality” of the human male and female conducted by Alfred Kinsey were presented to universities, medical associations, and church bodies as facts which could not be ignored by enlightened academics. Christianized versions of the sexual revolution’s message were then (and still are) passed down to schools and parents to share with children.

Are just what are some of these myths?

  • Children are sexual from birth.
  • Children should be taught about sex, and with the proper terminologies, beginning in early elementary school.
  • If children are not taught about sex early on, their naiveté could make them prey to sexual predators.
  • Parents aren’t trained to properly teach their children about sex. The schools are the best environments for this to take place.
  • Boys and girls should be taught about puberty and sexuality while in the same classroom, since there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
  • Sex education will help prevent unplanned pregnancies, STD’s, and abortions.

The Church was naive in its promotion of sex education in the parochial schools, Bartlett points out, but not malicious. We were deceived into believing that we are “sexual from birth,” and this brainwashing had the complete opposite effect on our Church members as what was intended. It cleared the way for the acceptance of fornication, homosexuality, birth control, and even abortion as a normal part of life for those who are simply expressing their sexuality – being who they thought they were created to be.

But that’s not how we were created, Bartlett reminds us. The solution to the mess we are in now is our Baptism. This is where we received our true identities as children of the Heavenly Father, not sexual beings created to express our sexuality, but holy beings, created to live holy (not sexual) lives. “It is important,” Bartlett says, “for the Body of Christ to see each member as fully human as opposed to sexual and, therefore, an instrument for God’s purpose and glory whether a child or adult, single or married, in this circumstance or that,” (pg. 108).

Because Bartlett presents such shocking evidence of our deception, she presents her case in the form of a patient dialogue between herself and her readers, including over 100 questions and then answering almost every objection one could think of to the notion that there is anything wrong with the way the Church has been educating her children. Her love and concern for her Church family flow through each section as she gently reminds us all that, “Even well-intentioned sex education in the Church leans the wrong way if built on the wrong foundation,” (pg. 129).

If you have children, if you teach children, if you are related to children, or if you once were a child, this book is for you.

A Prayer of Faith and Hope

I must share a unique blessing I have.

I didn’t always have it. Years ago, I had to sit on the table in my OB/GYN’s office, tucking and re-tucking the thin sheets around myself while waiting for the doctor to arrive and avoiding the ads for contraceptives that plastered the walls.

I have a new doctor now. This doctor celebrates life, teaches his numerous children about the Creator of life, and has personally prayed for me in my suffering. And instead of drug marketing posters, this doctor displays in his office crucifixes, Scripture verses, and wall art like this:


Thank you, Amy, whoever you are. And thank you, Dr. G. You both provide so much encouragement to every woman who sees you.


The Waiting Game: Domestic Adoption

PrayerThis weekend I participated in an adoptive parent panel discussion hosted by our adoption agency, which is part off the required training for families who are on the waiting list. When I had first walked in at the back of the room, having arrived plenty early, I sat down and looked around at all the couples who were sitting in the same place I had sat three years ago. Out of the blue, I started tearing up. Why? It reminded me of the ACHE. I don’t know how else to put it. Seeing all those waiting couples brought back the same emotion I had had in that same room while we were waiting for J. Little did I know at the time, but the wait would be another two years.

When it was time for me to speak, one of the things I shared with the group is something I don’t think I’ve addressed on this site yet, and that is how one can best get through the waiting of a domestic adoption. Kristi has often shared with us her experiences with waiting for an international placement, but domestic adoptions are very different. In most cases, when you work with an agency you are notified periodically when a birthfamily is looking at your profile and you’re given some limited information about the child. Sometimes you are notified if there is a child who doesn’t quite match what your preferences were on your paperwork, but the agency thinks you might still want to be considered. In our case, we received these notifications every few months, sometimes several back-to-back. How can you not get your hopes up? How can you not feel rejected when you’re not picked? With international adoption there is often just silence. With domestic adoption there can be plenty of false alarms. Both scenarios can be torture.

The perspective you have during this process determines whether you can handle these potential matchings with grace and patience, or whether they give you ulcers and prematurely greying hair. If adopting really is all about YOU and what YOU want, then each time you don’t get picked you will feel like the victim of injustice. (Hey, been there!) But what if the waiting period wasn’t just about how long it is taking for a family to pick you, and instead it is about you being in a unique position where you are made aware of women experiencing crisis pregnancies who need lots of prayer, both for themselves as well as for their babies? What if this time was designed to give you another chance to serve your neighbor and better understand the needs of families in your community?

Quite a number of birthmothers contact agencies before letting anyone else in their family know they are pregnant. Some do this because they have relatives who will pressure them to abort the child. When you find out about this mother and child through the agency, you may be one of only a handful of people who knows that this child even exists! Because of your new “vocation” you are given the most wonderful privilege to be able to approach the Heavenly Father on this child’s behalf and ask that He would shelter, protect, love and care for this baby by providing the best home possible for her. And you can ask for wisdom, healthy, maturity and peace for the birthparents, that He would give them what they need to either responsibly parent or confidently release this child into someone else’s arms.

When your focus is on serving these children and their biological families through prayer and not just on getting a child for yourself, you can sincerely rejoice when you hear that a baby is being placed with a family, even if it’s not your family. Your prayers have been answered! Thank God that He is caring for these children through your agency and the money you are paying the agency is not just helping you find a child, but it is helping women in your community who are in crisis to get support and guidance in making the most difficult decision of their lives.

The waiting period is not wasted time. It is not a time to navel-gaze and wonder what’s wrong with you and your spouse that you haven’t been chosen yet. The waiting period can be about serving through prayer, and ACHING for the difficult lives and tough decisions these birthparents have, not just aching for yourself. Spend your time wisely and prayerfully, and one magical day you may be surprised to find out that the latest child you’ve been privileged to pray for  is about to become your own.

Shepherds Who Point Us to the Lamb

gethsemaneThere is no better time to talk about suffering than Good Friday, and our church body is blessed to have so many learned, compassionate, and insightful shepherds who know that the life of the Christian is one of taking up our crosses and following Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. Take some time this weekend to watch, listen, and read the following as we focus on the suffering and death of our Lord:

Rev. Bryan Wolfmueller’s comments on Issues, Etc. about Sanctification and Suffering

Synodical President Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison’s video, “Suffering is Purposeful through Repentance”

and Rev. Dr. Gifford Grobien’s comments specifically to you, the barren:

When couples experience barrenness, with Job we should want to worship God and to say,  “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of  the LORD” (Job 1:21). But in the midst of the devil’s temptations such  faithful action and confession seem out of reach. We are distraught. There really isn’t any reason we can hear that will ease the questioning and the sadness. Once again, suffering has overshadowed the way things ought to be. Suffering overtakes even the faithful person. The cross looms and gives no reason.

Instead, the cross calls the church faithfully to follow. Faithfully. That is, even without seeing. Even without perceiving or  understanding. The cross beckons us to see suffering and to see deliverance through suffering. It does not explain suffering; but it promises deliverance from suffering. More than this, the cross of  Jesus Christ promises deliverance through suffering to fellowship with the one who suffered ultimately. The church is a fellowship of  suffering; a fellowship with the passionate One; a fellowship with God of the universe who nevertheless stooped to suffer not just with you, but for you.

Suffering, by its very nature, takes time. We, on the one hand, desire immediate results. We have our food through the drive-through, our information at the touch of a screen, our friends at the click of a  mouse. Even our sins are forgiven in a moment, at the Word of  absolution. That much is true. Yet suffering connotes experience. It  implies time. Deliverance comes after a time of suffering, and this time is not in vain. During this time we are sanctified. We grow in the love of God through the Spirit of God. We are sustained by this  same Spirit through God’s indomitable gifts, so that no temptation overtakes us that is beyond our ability. God is faithful, and with the  temptation he will also provide the way of escape.

Escape. Deliverance. God provides the way of deliverance from suffering. He conforms us to the cross so that we would die and live in Christ. God delivers from infertility. It takes time. It may take a  lifetime. But there is deliverance in the cross.

One of the ways to endure suffering as we await deliverance is to hear God’s Word and to pray. When we pray the Psalms we do both. God knows what it is to suffer, for He gives us psalms to pray even in  suffering–psalms of lament. Thus we pray the psalms of lament. Psalm  13: “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?” Psalm 59: “For the  cursing and lies that [my enemies] utter, consume them in wrath; consume them till they are no more, that they may know that God rules.”

Pray these psalms, knowing that the enemy spoken of is the devil, the tempter overcome by suffering. He is overcome by Christ’s suffering, indeed, but it is true that Satan is overcome in his work in our lives when we persevere through suffering. When we are afflicted, the root temptation is to curse God and turn away in unbelief. God is all powerful, so our affliction must be his fault! That is the temptation of Satan. That is the theology of glory. So, when we persevere in faith, in spite of affliction, the work of the devil in our particular circumstances is also overcome through the power of the Spirit in the Word.