Miscarriage

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

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That You May Taste and Prove

Why do you suffer? Because God does not – and will not – forsake you.

“When faith begins, God does not forsake it; He lays the holy cross on our backs to strengthen us and to make faith powerful in us. The holy Gospel is a powerful Word. Therefore it cannot do its work without trials, and only he who tastes it is aware that it has such power.

Where suffering and the cross are found, there the Gospel can show and exercise its power. It is a Word of life. Therefore it must exercise all its power in death. In the absence of dying and death it can do nothing, and no one can become aware that it has such power and is stronger than sin and death. Therefore the apostle says ‘to prove you’; that is God inflicts no glowing fire or heat – cross and suffering, which make you burn – on you for any other purpose than ‘to prove you,’ whether you also cling to His Word. This is is recorded in Wisd. of Sol. 10:12 of Jacob: “God sent him an arduous contest, so that he might know that godliness is more powerful than anything.”

God lays a cross on all believers in order that they may taste and prove the power of God – the power which they have taken hold of through faith.”

– Martin Luther (Treasury of Daily Prayer, Writing for December 2nd)

Simon-of-Cyrene

Infertility Ethics Symposium in Review

Here are a few intriguing quotes from last Saturday’s Infertility Ethics Symposium.

(mea culpa: I took notes the old-fashioned way – by hand – during the symposium, so please forgive any unintended inaccuracy in my quotes.)

 

From Rev. William Cwirla’s “Be Fruitful and Multiply: Fertility Ethics Viewed in the Light of Creation and Redemption”:

“We have never said no when it comes to the gift of children, and God has never said yes.”

“Jesus heals a myriad of diseases in His ministry, but He never healed a barren couple.”

“Anything that shapes our identity apart from Christ is idolatry.”

“We are stewards and we are priests of God’s creation.”

“Vocation is not the location of our identity but the location of our service.”

 

From Rev. Dr. James I. Lamb’s “IVF: from Created to Creator”:

“I believe the place we start as theologians in a discussion of IVF is the incarnation of our Lord…We go to a fallopian tube in the virgin Mary.”

“We have a Savior who was an embryo once.”

“God wants every person, every embryo, to be splashed by the waters of Baptism.”

 

From Rev. Christopher S. Esget’s “Pastoral Care for Those Experiencing Infertility and Miscarriages”:

“Barrenness is not just a diagnosis. It is an ongoing reality.”

“We must be sensitive to the unintentionally excluded.”

“We must preach contentment in the vocations we have, not in the ones we wish we had.”

 

From Rev. Dr. Robert W. Weise’s “Embryo Adoption: Helping or Hurting My Neighbor?”:

“The one-flesh union is the blessing that God gives the union of husband and wife. We have it physically and spiritually.”

“Surrogacy is a substitute. This is a disconnect in the marital union.”

“Embryo adoption is troubling, because it involves surrogacy…and the death of embryos.”

 

Interested in knowing more about what was said by our six presenters at the symposium? Look for a downloadable document of the presentations on LCMS’s website sometime within the next few months.

Symposium Schedule

What do IVF, embryo adoption, and miscarriage all have in common?

They’re topics which will be addressed at the Infertility Ethics Symposium at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis on Saturday, November 8th. Please, do everything you can to make sure your pastor can attend.

Here is an itinerary of the day’s events as well as descriptions of the papers which will be presented.

You can find out more information about the symposium as well as how to reserve your pastor’s spot by visiting LCMS Life Ministry’s website.

It’s time for the Church to speak on these things.

2014_Infertility_Symposium_Poster

What If…

10588494-pregnant-woman-holding-big-question-mark-all-on-white-backgroundWhile at the doctor’s office for a routine physical exam, I decided to ask about the official diagnosis for my barrenness. My physician is a wise soul, and, since she hadn’t been my primary physician years ago, she asked a variety of questions. We visited back and forth, reviewing my medical history. I assured her that I did not NEED to know the exact reason for my barrenness; I was merely asking out of curiosity.

After more discussion, she asked, “So if you could get pregnant, would you?” She caught me completely off guard. “Wow,” I replied, “nobody has asked me that question in the past several years.” She quickly apologized and assured me that I need not answer that question. “No, I do want to answer that,” I told her. “You surprised me because that scenario has not entered my mind since we began the adoption process eight years ago.” I went on to share with her that I believed all children to be gifts. If God would bless our family with another biological child, then I would definitely receive him/her with great joy. At least I think I would. Right?

I pondered her question over and over again. At times, I was excited. God could bless our family yet again with a child. At other times, I was terrified. I have just survived a challenging eighteen months with the arrival of our two youngest children. Could I handle another child right now? I thought that our quiver was going to have three arrows, so I wasn’t even considering the possibility of more children. I was being challenged. I could feel myself trying to take control of a possible pregnancy situation. Why, oh, why was I trying to take the reins of something that is completely out of my hands?

Thanks be to God for His continuous forgiveness, despite my attempts to be in charge. God knows what’s going to happen. The “What if….” question may play out for years to come. What if we do get pregnant? Will I be able to handle all that a pregnancy entails? What if we don’t get pregnant? Will I remain thankful for my blessings? “What if…” can be a dangerous question because it leads me down paths that may not be what God has in mind for me. This I KNOW, however…. God is in control, and He is always working for my eternal good.

Infertility Ethics Symposium

Thank you to Andy Bates and KFUO’s His Time show for interviewing Dr. Jeff Gibbs and me this morning on the upcoming Infertility Ethics Symposium at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.

You can listen to the interview here.

Reporter Online also recently published a helpful article which explains why the LCMS Life Ministry and the Concordia Seminary Life Team are co-sponsoring this important and timely event.

You can read the article here.

“May we both be like Anna”

There are times when God in His wisdom and mercy grants one of us our request for a child. So He has seen fit to do for our sister in Christ, Abby, and I don’t think I’ve ever read a more beautiful “sharing and bearing” epistle in my entire correspondence with women who struggle under the cross of barrenness:

We had the marvelous, bittersweet gift of, for once, hitting a “due date” [from one of our miscarried babies] with another baby on the way, and now that we are rounding the corner of the third trimester, it’s maybe sinking in? I am so happy and so scared, still, for her. I am praying all the more for the Lord’s return for us all and many baby blessings in the meantime.

We are naming her Anne in honor of Hannah’s prayers and God’s marvelous favor to Anna, which came in the revelation of the Messiah and NOT in the form of a baby of her own. Because we have been so open with friends and family about our miscarriages, it has proven more natural to reply graciously to those who say things about how much the baby will “help us heal” from the miscarriages. I’m sorry, the only baby who does that is Jesus. I refuse to believe that this girl is the answer or solution. That would not be fair to expect of her. And we have all heard those awful stories about umbilical cords that wrap too tight, little lungs that just won’t expand, or chests that stop beating one night…. if one of those things were to happen to a baby that’s supposed to heal me, where would I be then? (Devastated, of course, but preferably not bereft of all hope in the Gospel.) 

The Bible does not say, “For God so loved the barren/miscarrying woman that He gave each one the promise of her own child, that whosoever believes in Him will not remain barren but will have a procreative life.” Because of His love for the whole world, He gave His Son so we could have eternal life. What good, good news. 

Much love to you, and I’m praying this news comes to you in God’s timing. May you see manifold witness of His love and care for you in every bit of your day, and may we both be like Anna, who found her satisfaction in God’s faithfulness to provide salvation.

Thank you, Abby, and amen.

Anna Simeon Presentation in the Temple - Duccio di Buoninsegna copy

Infertility Ethics Symposium – Saturday, November 8th

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Calling all LCMS pastors, seminarians, commissioned ministers, deaconesses, and parish nurses!

We certainly live in a “brave new world,” especially when it comes to infertility medicine.

In vitro fertilization, embryo adoption and assisted reproductive technologies…What is the Church to do? How can the Church steer congregations through the ethically murky waters of infertility medicine? What comfort can we as the Church offer to those who suffer from infertility and miscarriages?

LCMS Life Ministry and the Concordia Seminary Life Team are helping start the conversation by sponsoring an Infertility Ethics Symposium for pastors, seminarians, commissioned ministers, deaconesses, and parish nurses on Saturday, November 8, at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. Won’t you please join us?

Admittance is free.

Contact LCMS Life Ministry at 314-996-1711 or tracy.quaethem@lcms.org for more info as it becomes available.


Symposium Schedule:

8:30 a.m. – Opening Worship – Rev. William Weedon (Homily: Prof. John Pless)
9:00 a.m. – “Be Fruitful and Multiply: When It Doesn’t Work” – Rev. William Cwirla
10:00 a.m. – coffee break
10:30 a.m. – “Survey of Reproductive Counseling Practices in the Lutheran Church” – Rev. Dr. Kevin E. Voss
11:30 a.m. – “IVF: from Created to Creator” – Rev. Dr. James Lamb
12:30 p.m. – lunch
1:45 p.m. – “Embryo Adoption: Helping or Hurting My Neighbor?” – Rev. Dr. Robert W. Weise
2:45 p.m. – “Pastoral Care for Those Experiencing Infertility” – Rev. Christopher Esget
3:45 p.m. – break
4:00 p.m. – “The LCMS and Infertility Ethics” – Rev. Peter Brock
5:00 p.m. – Closing Worship – Rev. William Weedon (Homily: Dr. Jeff Gibbs)
5:30 p.m. – Gemütlichkeit

Isaac Pleaded

In my selfishness, I forget that my husband bears the cross of barrenness, too. I forget that my empty womb is a cross that he also shares.

Isaac also experienced the same cross. He and his wife Rebekah did not have any children. His father Abraham had been told that he would be the father of nations. Isaac knew that this meant his family would need to have descendants. Thus, Isaac took his concern to the Lord. As a loving spouse, he pleaded to God for his wife because they were barren.

Genesis 25:19-21

New King James Version (NKJV)

19 This is the genealogy of Isaac, Abraham’s son. Abraham begot Isaac. 20 Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah as wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padan Aram, the sister of Laban the Syrian. 21 Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived.

God heard Jacob’s prayer. Only by His grace and mercy, God granted twins to Rebekah and Jacob.

May we be so bold as to always take our concerns to our Father in heaven. May we also thank God for our spouses, who share the cross of barrenness with us.