Grief

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

I’m Already Blessed

th-1 “It happened again,” my friend Barb said to me. “Somebody asked me when Monte and I were going to start a family. People don’t need to know my whole life story, and they shouldn’t pry into my private life.”

I grimaced as Barb shared those words. She and her husband had been married for several years and were still without children. People were starting to ask more frequently when this young couple would start having children. After much prayer, Barb and Monte had decided to move forward with the adoption process, but it was going slowly. Several months ago, a birth mother had contacted them with the possibility of having Barb and Monte adopt the child when he was born. However, once the mother delivered her baby, she chose to parent him.

“I’m sad that we didn’t get to adopt Peter, but I’m glad his mother loves him. That baby boy wasn’t the answer God has in mind for us.”

I marveled at Barb’s wisdom. She and her husband were so young but also wise beyond their years.

Barb continued, “I don’t know why people can’t be happy for me. I have an awesome husband. He supports me in my grief, even when he doesn’t know what to say or do in the sad times. I am healthy, and I have a job that pays me a decent salary. I have loving family and friends around me. Why can’t people see that I’m already blessed and be happy for me in those things?”

And there it was. In her grief, Barb recognized her many blessings from the Lord. Yes, the adoption process had experienced a setback. And, yes, Barb was mourning a child that was not given to her. However, through her sorrow, Barb could still recall the Lord’s numerous blessings to her and her husband.

Whether or not God will grant Barb and Monte a child, I cannot say. Rather, may we all, no matter our trials and tribulations, confess with Barb, “I’m already blessed!”

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.

 

Birth Announcements

iurI often am asked, “How do I tell my barren friend that I am pregnant?”

Personal preferences are always personal, so I cannot speak for every woman. However, I can share with you exactly how I want to receive the news of another’s pregnancy: personally and in private.

And if that personal, private pregnancy announcement is accompanied by a sincere invitation for me to take part in my pregnant friend’s joy, then I find that I often can, indeed, rejoice in the gift given to her. While it always hurts to remain barren when others are blessed, I recognize the tender care in being sought out ahead of the crowd. I see the extended kindness in being invited to join in on the celebration. Being remembered is always a better experience for me than being left alone.

But do you know what helps me the most during these times of grief? I am greatly comforted and encouraged when my pregnant friend rightly believes and confesses that her child is a gift from God, and that confession is often expressed — not through a cheeky Instagram picture or a clever Facebook announcement — but through a dignified email such as this:


Katie,

Several times in the past year, I felt quite a bit like Hannah — weeping bitterly before the Lord. I wondered many times why He didn’t remember me, as He remembered her. But the Lord is faithful and merciful, and He has remembered me. We found out last month that I am pregnant. And while this news has come with much joy and thanksgiving, it has also come with great grief. In my joy, I can’t help but think of all my sisters who, like Hannah, also weep bitterly before the Lord, and yet do not receive the gift of a child.

I pray for you and your husband often. I pray that He will shower you with the same blessings He has given me and my husband through our children. But more importantly, I pray He will grant you peace and comfort, and remind you ever that you are His, and that His love for you endures forever.

God’s blessings to you in all that you do.

In Christ,
Leah

Leah, in the midst of her rejoicing, chooses to remember — even share in — my grief.

And in the safety of such obvious love, I find it quite easy to share in her joy.

 

Why you should go to church tomorrow

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I know you are tempted not to go to church tomorrow, but please do. Jesus wants to give you the gifts of His Word and Holy Supper there, and His gifts are far better than any old carnation or corsage or greeting card.

Yes, you may have to endure the awkward, faltering “Happy Moth– Oh, I’m sorry” greeting at the door, but you will be fine. Just remember how many times you have misspoken to people, and thank God that He forgives both you and them.

You may grow red-cheeked before the tongue-tied usher handing out carnations, but red looks good on you. The man understandably doesn’t know what to say in the face of your childlessness, so rejoice in his recognition of your plight. Graciously give him a polite smile and nod of the head, and move on for both of your sakes.

You may very well be shamed and shunned by the pastor’s preservice announcements, children’s message, and sermon anecdotes, but there are worse things to endure in this life. You know it is true, for you, with God’s help, have already endured them. Mother’s Day shenanigans in the Divine Service are nothing compared to the death of your children. This too shall pass.

You also may cry during the service, but you will not be the first nor the last to do so. The Church is made up of cross-bearing criers, and you have nothing to hide. No one will begrudge a barren woman tears on Mother’s Day. Just be prepared to grab the tissues that are passed your way, and welcome them as the gift of love that they are.

By all means, go to church so that you may pray these words:

Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will.

Go to church so that you may sing with all the people of God:

Lord, have mercy.

Go to church so that you may confess:

I believe in Jesus Christ…who was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Go to church so that you can hear the prophet promise:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from your idols I will cleanse you (Ezekiel 36:25).

Go to church so that you can be exhorted by the apostle:

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another (1 Peter 4:10).

Go to church so that the evangelist may remind you of Christ’s command:

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:12–13).

Go to church so that you may take and eat, take and drink:

For the forgiveness of your sins.

Go to church so that you may return thanks to the Lord for all His benefits to you:

He recalls His promises and leads His people forth in joy with shouts of thanksgiving. Alleluia, alleluia.

Go to church so that you may be blessed by God Himself through your pastor:

The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.

The Lord look upon you with favor and + give you peace.

Go to church so that you do not miss out on what really matters: receiving Christ’s gifts. Being thus refreshed, I think you will find that you can celebrate your sisters’ joys, and they, in turn, will learn to bear your burdens. This is what we do. Together. Even tomorrow.

Especially tomorrow.