Parenting

Not All Mothers

I recently received this note from a sister in Christ. It brought me great comfort in my barrenness:

In our household we have come to love the story of Ruth. [My husband] teaches it on a cycle to the youth of our church. One of his main points is that it is as much Naomi’s story as Ruth’s and Boaz’, for it is the story of the Promise of the Seed and Naomi’s Redeemer. 

In the last chapter, when Boaz’ and Ruth’s son is born, the village women remark that Ruth was as good as ten sons to Naomi. This is true, isn’t it? Through this child comes the continuation of what will be the Davidic line resulting in David’s King. How wondrous! And yet Ruth is not Naomi’s daughter and blood relation. Instead, upon having seen and tasted her mother-in-law’s faith in her home country, Ruth is a daughter by confession. “Your people will be my people; your God, my God.”

Not all mothers give birth to their daughters.

Naomi, Ruth and Obed 1876-7 by Thomas Matthews Rooke 1842-1942

Gift Language in Action

IMG_4866 copyYesterday’s Sunday school lesson was about Abraham’s visitors from heaven, and this conversation went down in my 4th-5th grade class:

Me: God gave Abraham and Sarah the gift of a child, even in their old age. You may have noticed that Pastor and I have not been given the gift of children. Is God going to give us a child?

Tall Girl: Yes!

Reflective Boy: Well…

Me: Think of it this way, why did God give Abraham and Sarah the gift of a child?

Insightful Boy: Because He promised them a child.

Me: Exactly! God gave Abraham and Sarah the gift of Isaac, because God was fulfilling a promise that He made. Has God promised Pastor and me in His Word that He will give us the gift of a child?

(silence; Petite Girl’s mouth hangs open in careful thought)

Tall Girl: Yes, because even if you don’t have a child, you will adopt a baby and get a child that way. That’s how it works.

Me: Adopted children are gifts from God, too. Pastor and I want to adopt children, but God has not given us children that way, either. Neither has He promised us in His Word that He will do so. We are different from Abraham and Sarah that way. But do you want to hear the good news? Whether or not God gives Pastor, me, or you the gift of children someday, we are already blessed. Do you know why? Because when God kept His promise to Abraham and Sarah, He was also keeping His promise to us. Think about it. Isaac was born and then another child in the next generation and then another child in the next generation and on and on until Who was born?

Insightful Boy: Jesus.

Me: Exactly. In keeping His promise to give Abraham and Sarah a child, God was keeping His promise to give all of us the Child Jesus to save us from our sins. That’s why Pastor and I and you can rejoice even if we are never given the gift of another child.

Eleven Blessings

Looking for an opportunity to mother some children? Offer to babysit somebody’s children for a few hours. It will be a blessing to you, to the children, and to their parents.

For one afternoon, this summer, I got to be MOM to these eleven kiddos. And what a joy that was! We didn’t stay home. Oh, no, we braved the local water park for several hours. The kids checked in with Jerome and me from time to time. Sunscreen and water, you know. The three little ones stayed in the little squirts’ play area and then spent time in their strollers, napping. It took two vehicles to cart our baker’s dozen home, but we did it. Was it tiring? No, it was short-term parenting. The kids all played so nicely together. Could I do it on a regular basis? With God’s help, I could, and I would. The amount of food they ate amazed me. They didn’t all sit around my table either; they took advantage of the nice weather outdoors. It was a treat to have them in my charge for several hours. They were all well-behaved children and enjoyed each other’s company; it was fun to watch them interact with one another. I am so blessed to be a parent, a good friend, and a godmother to these blessings from God.

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What’s Your Job?

“What is your job, anyway?” one of my best friends asked me this week. “You know, this thing you do. The driving around everywhere to listen to peoples’ problems.”

Huh. I knew what she was asking, but I didn’t know how to answer. Because I’m not exactly sure myself. “Facilitator, I guess.”

I thought for one more moment before nodding my head. Yes, that’s the best word I could think of for it. I’m not a trained social worker; I don’t have an official call as a deaconess in the church; I’m not employed by any organization to do this traveling-speaking-listening-thing. But still. People want, even need, the chance to get together to talk about all kinds of things – suffering, barrenness, secondary infertility, chronic pain, infertility ethics, miscarriages, estranged children, dead family members, you name it – and it’s my privilege to facilitate that getting together.

My friend nodded and did that thing she does so well. She waited for me to say more, for she wasn’t being sassy in her questioning. She was being helpful, encouraging me to process and talk about my strange vocation.

“Actually,” I confided, leaning against her kitchen counter for support, “this may sound silly, but I kind of think of myself as a mother of women whose own mothers live far away or are already asleep in Jesus. They need a woman to hold their hand, listen to them, hug them, comfort them, and remind them of God’s faithfulness to them in Christ Jesus. They need a mother. I get to be that for them, sometimes.”

I felt my face warm at this very personal admission. I’m barren, but I had just called myself a mother. I hastily explained, “I just don’t blog about it very much, because I feel weird admitting it to others.”

But it’s true.

So I just blogged about it.

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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.