Grief

Coming this May…

Eight years have passed since I first began writing He Remembers the Barren, and the time is ripe for a second edition. I am thrilled to announce that Emmanuel Press will be publishing this revised, expanded edition.

Why bother with a second edition? I have grown in my knowledge and understanding of the topic of barrenness, both through personal experience and study, and I would like my confession of the theology of the cross in the book to proclaim more clearly how our heavenly Father disciplines us, His dear children, through the gift of suffering in this life. I also feel compelled to better and further address the topic of adoption and the ethical issues surrounding in vitro fertilization and other such procedures utilized in the field of infertility medicine.

Much of the original book’s content will remain the same, though I am making revisions – some minimal and some more significant – to every chapter. I am also composing new chapters as well as an appendix of shorter questions-and-answers addressing concerns frequently expressed by those wishing to have children and the loved ones who wish to serve them. The second edition will also contain discussion questions written by Rebecca Mayes, making it more accessible for use in group study.

One more thing: acclaimed artist Edward Riojas is painting the cover for the second edition. While the poignant, raw emotion evoked by the first cover will forever be my first love, the artwork designed for the second edition is exquisitely tender and beautiful and honest and hopeful and Christological and perfect. It is a better match for the book’s content, and I fully approve of their marriage. You are going to love it.

Look for He Remembers the Barren, Second Edition to be released in May.

All of the children

I wasn’t even there when it happened.

Board elections of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) had finally wrapped up for the day, so I was walking back from the convention floor to the press room, tallies in hand, intent on finishing my story for the Reporter within the hour.

It was then that my husband texted me:

They’re trying to move [Resolution] 3-04 to the floor.

I stopped in the empty convention center hallway and stared at my phone. What? Floor Committee 3 wasn’t even on the agenda for that day. And honestly, after two straight hours of recording election results, my brain couldn’t even recall what Resolution 3-04 was.

IVF. Voting now on the motion. No discussion. Gonna pass.

It suddenly hit me what was happening.

This was the resolution, the one that had been five years in the making; the one Rebecca Mayes and I had talked about with pastors at roundtable after roundtable; the one the sainted +Maggie Karner+ and I had discussed as being so necessary that LCMS Life Ministry ended up hosting two Infertility Ethics Symposiums at our Synod’s seminaries; the one Stephanie Neugebauer and the Sanctity of Human Life Committee had made a priority for the good of the church.

This was the resolution that asked our Synod president to assign a task force to study issues relating to procreation, fertility, and care for the unborn. This was the resolution that asked our church to study these matters and, God willing, to speak on them.

My husband had warned me earlier that, with the amount of business in need of being covered at this year’s convention, it most likely wouldn’t make it to the convention floor, but some blessed soul – Chris from Texas, I later learned – took it upon himself to make a motion from the floor outside of the orders of the day.

I quickened my pace to get to the press room. The convention was being live-streamed there. If I hurried, I just might make it in time.

“What’s happening?” I asked, turning around the corner and dropping my bag at my table.

Several reporters looked up at me with blank faces, fully engrossed in the stories they were currently writing on other convention business. No one had been watching the live stream.

IVF task force 95.75% adopted. Thanks be to God!

It was such a quiet, unassuming moment in time. I stared at my phone in disbelief, and then I looked up at the large television screen standing against the far wall. The convention chair was calmly moving the assembly on to the next order of business as if mountains had not just been moved. No cheers were thrown into the air by delegates, no applause rippled across the convention floor. The moment passed just as quickly and discreetly as it had come, and my senses simply weren’t fast enough in the chase.

I looked around at the other reporters, all diligently working, and I did what any other barren woman would do. I stepped out into the hall and cried as quietly as I could. I cried for all of the children frozen in liquid nitrogen; I cried for all of the children abandoned in fertility clinics; I cried for all of the children aborted; I cried for all of the children waiting to be loved, respected, and parented.

And I cried in thanksgiving that my church body is going to pay attention to them.

The LORD of all life be praised!

IMG_9365

Bearing the Pain

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’tLookSick.com.

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.

So Much Death

My heart can barely hold the grief.

It leaks out of my eyes as I bow my head in church. I’ve learned to pray with my eyes open, so that the tears drop straight to the floor and not onto my cheeks and clothes in tell-tale streaks.

It shudders from my lungs in seismic waves as Pastor reads the Gospel lesson. I’ve learned to hold my breath until my chest burns, camel-clutching my wayward diaphragm into submission.

It squeezes out of my larynx in pathetic whimpers as I sing, “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” I’ve learned not to program “O Little Town of Bethlehem” for the Sunday school children lest they witness more sorrow in Advent than their parents want to explain on the drive home.

But my eyes, my lungs, my larynx – all rebels, every one. They get the better of me every Advent, because I know of more children dead than born.

So much death! How can I bear it?

And, as happens every year, I look to the image of my Lord as a tiny baby in the manger, and I remember, “So much life!”

I cannot bear it, so Jesus bears it for me. He is born to conquer death for my sake and for yours. He gives us life everlasting, and He gives it abundantly.

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

IMG_1443

 

Plainspoken

IMG_1223.JPG

“Want to come inside for a visit?” Elva asked.

I was there for milk and eggs only. I hadn’t expected to be invited inside the main house, and I was suddenly embarrassed by my grubby barn garb – stocking cap, work jeans, muddy boots – but the hospitable man seemed to read my mind.

“Seems the best place for a chat is out of the rain.”

I couldn’t argue with that. I followed Elva into the square house and was immediately welcomed by the warm smile and handshake of his wife, Alta. Something yeasty and cinnamon-y was also welcoming me from their oven.

“So you’re a writer of books?”

I looked into Elva’s blue eyes. They were kind and curious and ready to smile. Now that he had taken off his black hat, I could see that his ruddy hair perfectly matched his beard in shade and texture.

“Yes.” I never know what else to say in these circumstances.

“What are they about?”

“Oh, well.” I cleared my throat and tried to think how best to describe in just a few sentences what took thousands upon thousands of sentences to actually publish. “My husband and I have not been blessed with children, so my first book is about barrenness.”

They didn’t flinch. I took a breath and continued. “I like writing about God’s abundant love and mercy to us in Christ Jesus. It comforts me to know that God’s care for us is proven in the gift of His own Son, not in the gift of children of my own.”

Neither of them seemed to be bothered by serious talk.

“Would you like to see my books?” Elva gestured an invitation toward the four shelves of books tucked neatly in the corner of the room.

“Turn on the lamp, so she can see,” Alta instructed.

I tried not to stare too obviously as Elva picked up a nearby lighter. The gas lamp above my head buzzed and popped with immediate light. The thought occurred to me that I was just a couple of hours away from my own home but worlds away from my daily life. I skimmed the titles. The Holy Bible. That one I expected. What I didn’t expect was The Walk West: A Walk Across America 2.

“Oh, I know that book,” I said. It is an autobiographical account of one man’s experiences walking across America with his wife. It’s prequel is a retelling of the experiences of that same man walking across America by himself. “My mom read it aloud to me when I was in elementary school. Do you like it?”

“Yes,” Elva’s brow furrowed, “but I learned that the author and his wife are no longer together. That kind of ruined it for me.”

A soulful, convicted man. I took a risk.

“This is a personal question, and, please,” I walked back to my chair across the room, too nervous to look either of my hosts in the eye, “don’t answer if I am being inappropriate, but are there any,” I swallowed, “barren couples in your community?”

Alta glanced at her husband’s face. “Yes. One of my closest friends, in fact. Well, they did end up having one child, but…”

“But none after that?”

Alta nodded.

“Is it hard not to have children in your community?” I colored at the sound of my own question. It registered as dumb in my own barren ears. “I mean, I would think it would be hard not to have more help with the work around the house…”

Oh, dear. I was getting dumber by the second.

Elva generously saved me. “We usually generate only the amount of work we can do ourselves. And we help each other.”

I nodded, embarrassed. “So the barren in your community have support.” I said it more to myself than to anyone else.

“Yes,” Alta nodded. “In fact, several- ”

There are several Amish barren! I was surprised and somewhat comforted.

” -get together for circle time in our area to visit and…”

Alta looked at her husband, again. I could tell she didn’t know how to describe what she had never taken part in.

“And encourage each other?” I offered.

She nodded, again.

I smiled. I couldn’t help it. Even in this strange world of gas lamps and horse-drawn buggies, I was not alone in my suffering.

I felt quite encouraged, myself.

 

The Way It Goes Sometimes

61c6f603-f628-4425-9d5b-84f2affac9dd copy

We took our nine-year-old niece out for supper the other night.

“Do you want to be a mom?” she asked from the backseat of the car.

“Oh, yes, but God has not given us the gift of children.”

“You can adopt, then.”

“We’ve tried, but it hasn’t worked out in such a way as to make us parents.”

“Huh?” Her adorable, Asian brow furrowed in my rearview mirror. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that we’ve tried to adopt children, but it just doesn’t work out for everybody. God has not given us the gift of children through adoption.”

“But- ” she chewed on this bit of news for moment. It wasn’t the first time we’d talked about it, but it was the first time we’d talked about it alone. “I thought that you can just…I mean, isn’t it…? Don’t you just…? Oh. I guess I don’t know how it works.”

I found her admission of consternation to be refreshing – even comforting – especially coming from someone who was herself adopted.

For I often feel that way about adoption myself.