2015 Highlights

  • Published article for TGC
  • Taught at the Table on my 2-year FPC anniversary
  • Visitors: Heather, Morrissey’s, Brinn, Brittany, Jeff
  • Skiing in Taos
  • Rodeo concerts: Zack Brown Band (B&Ju), The Band Perry (Heather)
  • Birthday surprise by Brinn
  • CONNECT – creativity. 80 now in small groups
  • All the babies! Brinn, Julie, Kristin, Megan, Rania
  • Friendsgiving in Boston
  • D-track alumni: confession this summer; co-lead with Melissa
  • Teaching the Boomers – receiving encouragment
  • Anna moved to Honduras!
  • Yeager’s moved back to Boston!
  • Taylor Swift concert!
  • Israel!! With a best friend and a great mentor
  • living with Melissa, growing in friendship
  • Hospitality in our home: medical professionals brunch, firepit night, chili cookoff, 2 bible studies every week, summer book club on Keller’s “Prayer”
  • Sending Melissa to lead her own small group
  • Discipleship call on Christmas Eve from Alex

 

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Day 5: five months later

A few months ago, my friend and I started a series. We hope to finish with a few additional posts. Starting today…

What if you were a recovering alcoholic called to work as a bartender? An unsatisfied single man called to do pre-marital counseling? An infertile pastor asked to do a memorial service for aborted children?

Yeah. It’s gonna be that kind of raw. The kind of raw that surprises you, mid-slicing limes and cilantro, that ends up spilling these words out over the sound of gut wrenching tears, “Doesn’t it say somewhere, ‘he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up’?”

I handled the torn down okay, I thought. Gut wrenching sobs? Check! I made it through that first stage. In the initial months of becoming pastors, we decided that it would not be wise to tackle the what-to-do-next of the infertility diagnosis until at least 1 year in. And that was a good idea! Until the nursery workers start asking, “When will we have yours in the nursery?” And the unsuspecting grandmother says, “You wouldn’t be able to understand what my daughter’s going through. You’ve chosen not to have kids.”So leaving that frightening word, infertile, on the shelf for a year wasn’t possible. Friends got pregnant. I was torn down.

But after tears, I honestly felt healed. “Thank you, Father, that you gave me the diagnosis infertile. I know without a shadow of a doubt that you are in control. I know I did not make a wrong decision about whether to have or to prevent kids for the last 6 years. Because you have been in control, and you said no. Thank you. I can trust you.” That was 2 weeks ago.

Today, during a reflection on Psalm 103, I said to a fellow staff member, “I have experienced that God heals our afflictions. But I wish I knew that he forgives our iniquity deeper.” Full sincerity. Totally calm.

Cue the strike down.

That was pre-meeting with courageous women who walk with fellow sisters in Christ who have undergone abortions. They walk through their anger, forgiveness, grief, saying “hello” to their unborn child, and then saying good-bye. And now they would like to have a memorial service. They want me to lead a memorial service. I say what we always say, “We don’t have funerals here. We have services of the resurrection. For we are a people of the empty tomb, and we live in the hope of eternity.” I remain calm. Pastoral. Tears well up when one of the women acknowledges the coming pain for one of the women in the group who isn’t yet ready to say good-bye to the child she only just learned to say hello to. That must be so painful. “Should we sing ‘Amazing Grace’? How about ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness’?” We pray. Hug. See the administrator to schedule the service. Continue on with the day.

Then I come home and lose it. “I’m supposed to be speaking the forgiveness of the Father over these women! How could they do it? I can’t even make one. How could they kill theirs?!”

Sob.

“He has struck us down, and he will bind us up.”

Never have I been so convinced that I am not strong enough on my own to do the work that I’ve been called to do. Never have I needed God so much. Never have I needed God’s forgiveness so much. I need his forgiveness to be able to say in 2 weeks words of assurance, “Your sins have been forgiven by the blood of Jesus.” I really need to forgive them. They are, I am, the lost sheep that Jesus has picked up, bound up, and returned with.

Hosea continues,

After 2 days he will revive us;

on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.

Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD;

his going out is sure as the dawn;

he will come to us as the showers,

as the spring rains that water the earth.”

Here’s the summary of what I hope to share:

This series is intended to bring the anonymous struggle of infertility into the light.

To those unaware of infertility, I hope to make it personal and known, rather than generalized and unnoticed.

To those struggling with infertility, I hope to bring comfort and empathy.

To those within the Church, I hope to bring a theological framework for engaging the questions and ministry that arise with infertility.

I am a married Christian whose medical chart reads infertile. This is my angle, and I hope it serves you.

Day 3: Getting Real About Control… Birth Control

One commenter on Challies blog wrote, “the results of sex [conception] are viewed to be as undesireable as a venereal disease… they don’t realize the natural has been replaced by the unnatural.” I am one of those people who have been indoctrinated to the idea of pregnancy as undesirable in a way. I didn’t see pregnancy as permanently undesirable, but only desirable 5 years into marriage and then at intervals of only 18-24 months and only to be repeated 2-4 times, depending on finances and geographic stability. I thought pregnancy was something you could control. I always have. I controlled it by remaining abstinent until marriage. I controlled it after I got married by using birth control. Pregnancy was undesirable as a 22 year old with a travel bug and a new marriage. In the back of my mind, of course, I knew that my brother was conceived while utilizing 2 forms of birth control. So I knew that God was ultimately in control, but I was certainly going to be responsible to do my part to insure that we didn’t have kids before I was ready! God could intervene if necessary.

I was interpreting God’s control in the area of conception as an offensive measure that could overwrite the natural order but certainly not as a defensive measure preventing what I didn’t yet want.* We have plenty of defensive measures that do not require God’s defensive intervention. So if God REALLY wanted me to have kids, he could break through the forms of birth control as he did with my brother. But I was going to assume that he could not/would not prevent me from having kids if it wasn’t time yet.

I needed to follow the natural order of the day and prevent pregnancy until a day when it would be desirable or at least not repulsive for me. Like maybe 5 years down the road when Larry has a good job, we’ve had a couple years to get to know each other, and maybe we had a down payment saved up for a house. That would be the responsible thing to do. You can control pregnancy, and you should.

I have begun to wonder if that statement is a 2-part lie.

You can control pregnancy. You should control pregnancy.

This is crazy controversial, and it’s crazy personal. There’s so much out on the web, why in the world would I want to discuss this in my own personal terms?

Because the issue of having children is so controversial, and it’s so personal. I would say that the discussion is general and universal as with so many other issues, but I think the real issue is that it hasn’t really been discussed. And when I see more than 20 women in a 15 minute time slot at 6:30am on a Saturday on Memorial Day weekend in a fertility clinic there to get blood work and an ultrasound for their controversial and personal battle with infertility as anonymous, isolated individuals, it makes me want to make the issue discussed and known. So here I am anonymously dealing with the personal issue of infertility. Doesn’t make sense, does it? I, too, am not courageous enough to attach my name to infertility at this point in my struggle with it.

Your assumptions about birth control might just be wrong. So before you ask another couple who have been married 5 years, when will you start having kids? I hope you’ll consider what you’re really asking. On the positive side, if you have children I hope the next time you have a 2 year old birthday party you might think, who in my life doesn’t have kids but might really want to share this? Or that you might be prompted to ask your long-time single friend, what name would you have wanted to give a baby girl?

 

(*We can sidebar a theological discussion about God’s establishment of the natural order and his omnipotence in acting through and in circumvention to it if you’d like. But that’s not what I am saying was at play at this point in my life. God plays offense, not defense. Are we together? This was my mindset. I am not saying this is actually true.)

Day 2: without evidence

“It is difficult to be faithful without being blessed.”

I remember hearing Breakaway Ministries Founder Greg Matte say these words in a sermon entitled, “Still Dating Jesus.” I was 26 years old, in love and dating Mr. Darcy, and living every girl’s dream of pursuit by a man. I am sure I nodded and probably even produced an audible, prayer-like groan to profess agreement with him.

That was then.

Fifteen years later, I am 41 years old, dating no one, and often feel forgotten.

Am I not pretty enough, pure enough, sweet enough… even to God?

My confusion is not unlike my friend’s. We both need understanding. We want insight. We ache for the outcomes we’ve pleaded for: the end of singleness and the end of infertility.

But will He grant it to us? Do the verses we memorize provide any hope of receipt? Can we call Him faithful if He refuses?

The LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. (Psalm 84:11)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good. (Romans 8:28)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)

It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. (Genesis 2:18)

What am I to do with verses like these? Am I to believe that God loves me just as much as the 22-year-old who gets married one week after college graduation? If your answer is quick yes, then in C.S. Lewis fashion, I’ll suggest you don’t understand. This is the pain that is so much more than pain.

Good things. Good plans. Good suitor.

Promise?

Day 1: a violent word

God is good. All the time?

Did you grow up singing the Sunday School song, “Cast your burdens on Jesus”? I woke up singing it the other morning which set me looking into Psalm 55:22, “Cast your burden on the LORD.” I love this Hebrew word for cast. It’s a violent word for throwing down. We sing so nicely about laying down our burdens at the foot of the cross, coming to Jesus, etc. But sometimes there’s a burden that you just need to thrown down, to cast down to the LORD and let him sustain you.

You’ve been there, I’m sure. Maybe not you yourself, but you’ve been around people that have been there. And we want to offer a word of encouragement, a word of sustenance. So we say things like “it won’t always be like this,” or “I can’t wait to see how God uses this.” And those words are said with sincerity, I think.

But what I really want to explore and what I am really learning is that God is good in the midst of suffering. And God is good regardless of the outcome of that suffering in this life because God is eternally good. What he is doing is eternal. And so I have grown dissatisfied with temporal reassurances.

I need to throw down my struggle and doubt and pain upon Jesus and let him sustain me.

So I want to get real with you for a couple of blog posts about our struggle with infertility. I have and continue to cast down the burden of infertility directly to Jesus. The invitation is not for you to carry our burden. I want to invite you into how I have processed control, freedom, questions people ask, theological issues, and all that.

Is God good if he doesn’t bring us a child?

That’s the question. The question isn’t, “Is iVF ethical.” It’s not, “So are you going to consider adoption?” The question is, Is God good even if he doesn’t bring us a child of our own?

I’ve heard the same question in quite a variety of ways. Is God good if this cancer is terminal? If this church closes? If I never marry? If my dad never changes?

So I want to talk about infertility because it’s what I am talking about in my life. I’m sharing about this in the midst of our struggle with it because I don’t want to wait until it’s all resolved. I don’t want it to only be okay to talk about infertility when we see what God has in store for us in the struggle. I believe God is active in the struggle itself. And I want to testify to God’s goodness in the midst of suffering.

Here’s the summary of what I hope to share:

This series is intended to bring the anonymous struggle of infertility into the light.

To those unaware of infertility, I hope to make it personal and known rather than generalized and unnoticed.

To those struggling, I hope to bring comfort and empathy.

To those within the Church, I hope to bring a theological framework for engaging the questions and ministry that arise with infertility.

I am a married Christian whose medical chart reads, infertile. This is my angle, and I hope it serves you.

 

Intro: no guarantee

I have this friend. She and I, we’re the kind of friends who help sort things out. Whether it’s who she thinks is the best dancer on SYTYCD or which view of God’s providence I am trying to align with theologically, we think out loud together. She is someone I can say anything to. She knows my ugliness, and she never picks up a gavel.

In this season of life, our hearts are heavy. There is a lot of sorting, and there is a lot to say. And so, we are choosing the dare – to be honest, in hope of discovering the truth.  Single or married, man or woman, forty or twenty, healthy or ill, we wish to understand our suffering. We invite you in with one question: what do we do when we want what we do not have, and there is no guarantee that we will ever get it?

This question is so raw for us. Life has thrown some curve balls; ready or not, our stance matters. As we parse our questions and face our confusion, pray that we would listen well. We want to know God’s goodness in the midst of suffering, even before it resolves.