Rejoice When the Children Come In

Gentle Reader,

We’re halfway through 2019, and so I remind myself that the Holy Spirit directed me to focus on truth this year. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and feel my heart slow within my chest. God is good and pure and wonderful.

As I think on what is true, what God has revealed about Himself and about the world, I make a resolution to stop asking people about children. As in, “Do you have children?” or “Are you going to have another child?” And why not ask? First, it’s intrusive and unneeded; the answer will be revealed organically, one way or the other. Second, the asking can at least cause irritation for the one being asked, and can definitely cause pain if there are issues of infertility or if there has been death in the family. There are times when I want to go through life as the proverbial bull in the china shop, but I’m learning the importance of sensitivity. I don’t want to knowingly cause unnecessary discomfort in others just because I’m feeling nosy.

Desiring to be sensitive means I begin to notice when I am not sensitive myself, and when others choose not to be. Thus my jaw nearly hit the floor after overhearing a conversation, during which someone commented that they don’t approve of anyone pursuing a child from another country, because there are so many American children waiting to be adopted. Why spend thousands of dollars when you can “get a kid for free?”

Up front: Yes, there are a lot of children in the foster care system. I get that. I wish there wasn’t such familial dysfunction in our country that results in so many without stable homes. Almost nothing makes me angrier than children having to suffer because of the selfish, stupid decisions of adults.

I also get that the foster care system is primarily set up for reunification with biological family, not automatic adoption. Sometimes that’s a great thing, and sometimes that’s an awful thing, but either way, it’s nowhere near as simple as, “Find a kid born in the USA! They’ll be yours in no time!”

Further, domestic adoption is not free. Sure, maybe there’s not the initial, up-front fees, but there’s going to be a good chunk of change spent on counseling and other services, because it’s rare for a child in foster care to not have experienced trauma or to not be behind in development, whether academically, physically, or socially. And any parent worth his or her salt is going to be willing to spend that money, to do what’s best for the child. Besides, adoption, done with the right motives, is never focused on saving (or gaining) a buck or two.

The naivety of this comment is not what got me, however. All of us are naive, even outright ignorant, from time to time. That’s fine. We learn, we grow.

What’s not fine: The judgment behind the comment.

Why is it odd or wrong that a couple would sacrifice, would scrimp and save, to bring a child into their home? That they would go to the ends of the earth to find the little one whose picture they cannot erase from their minds, who is meant to be theirs?

Such disdain for those who dare to do something differently than another would do it.

Again, I understand that there are children who are shuffled around and want a family to call their own. I also understand that there are foster parents who have sought to adopt these children, and have been denied by the courts, because one or more biological family members refuse to sign their rights away. Yes, that’s right. It’s not as easy as, “Oh, this child is in foster care, so their bio family is done.”

This comment diminishes the heartache, the suffering, and the waiting, for both adopters and adoptees. This comment assumes that those who adopt internationally never considered the domestic option because they want an “exotic” child. This comment doesn’t take the direction of the Holy Spirit into account.

I know families who have done domestic adoption. I know families who have done international adoption. I know families who have done both. I know families who waited for years for a mother to choose them, only to have the adoption fall through at the last moment. In each case, a whole lot of agonized prayer went into the decision.

Adoption is just as individualized and personal as having a biological child. There are thousands of thoughts and reasons that go into the choice, thoughts and reasons that only the parents and God fully understand. Those on the outside have no business wondering “why” this or “why” that, for they have no way of truly knowing. And, bluntly, they should not offer their opinions on the matter, unless asked, and even then should tread carefully. Additionally, if the outsider has difficulty rejoicing that a child, from anywhere and of any age, has found a loving home, then that outsider should take some time and examine themselves, for why would any adoption be bad?

God never says that one family has to take the same shape as another, and so on and so forth. In fact, this side of the Cross, the emphasis is less on the nuclear family (though by no means is it unimportant) and more on the Church family. We are sisters and brothers and aunties and uncles and cousins and grandparents and extra moms and bonus dads. And God went very far, the farthest anyone could ever go, to adopt each of us.

If you have a passion to be a foster parent, do that. If you feel a burning desire to save up money and bring home a kid from Ethiopia, do that. If you don’t want kids of your own at all, but instead want to pour out your energy and love into the kids around you, do that. There is no law in Scripture to burden or condemn you on this matter (and the commands of God are designed to bring us freedom, anyway), so don’t let the opinions of mere mortals bring you down.

Listen to the Holy Spirit. Heed His voice. Others might think you’re going wrong when you do, but you aren’t. His way is the best way. He has called each of us to love children, and to see them as blessings, but there are so many different ways to do that. Your role is your role. You don’t have to do what everyone else does.

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Worthwhile: Creating a Life of Purpose & Joy in Infertility

Gentle Reader,

“Are you really a woman if you can’t have a baby?”

I’ve been asked this question, in one form or another, many times. It’s on the rude end of the spectrum, and I admit to responding with equal rudeness on occasion. But mostly, I get it. The general assumption, especially within the Christian community, is that woman equals one who gives birth. This is God’s design.

“You must have sinned in a major way. God must be mad at you.”

The bolder sort move from the question to these assertions, which never fails to leave me wondering what Bible people are reading. The God I know is the essence of grace, love and truth. He is not vindictive. He doesn’t engage in tit-for-tat. Can you imagine if He did? We’d all be lost.

This, my friend, is why we must know our theology well…

To read the rest, head on over to Rachel Marie Lee’s site. While you’re there, stay awhile. You’ll find encouragement and hope in her words. Grateful to Rachel for sharing her space with me!

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Five Minute Friday: Mom

Along the way @ mlsgregg.com (1)

Gentle Reader,

I went to bed at 7:45 p.m. last night.

Par-tay animal.

Linking up with Kate and The Gang.

Go.

It’s the most a-awkward day of the yeeeeaaaaarrrrrr…at church.

“Happy Mother’s Day!” comes flying out of well-meaning, enthusiastic mouths seconds before the look of horrified realization – “Oh, craaaaaaaaaaap. You never carried a baby in your womb-pouch thing that you don’t even have anymore and does that maybe make you less of a woman and you haven’t adopted anyone that doesn’t have fur and I shouldn’t have said that and now I feel weird and did I make you feel weird and how can I get out of this please put me out of my misery right now I’m going to back away slowly and go get a doughnut.”

I nod. I say “thanks” and wish him or her the same in return. (Yeah, weirdly, lots of men). I’m sure a smirk crosses my face because the entire exchange amuses me.

And, oh, the Mother’s Day sermons. No matter how hard I try, I tune out. Or read the footnotes in my study Bible. Jael’s brief story is particularly interesting. Not because I’m angry or hurt. I’m not. I just don’t know why there must be special Mother’s Day sermons and services. Or any recognition of any secular holiday – Father’s Day, Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, President’s Day, May the Fourth be With You. Isn’t the point of our corporate gatherings to worship the Lord? To focus on Him? Can’t moms and dads and just people be encouraged and uplifted in the normal course of that worship? Must the spotlight be shifted?

This is an unpopular opinion, I’m sure, but I don’t want church to be about anything or anyone other than God. I don’t like it when groups of people are invited to stand so all can applaud. Save it for another time, another place.

Between the above period and the “b” that starts this sentence, I’ve been staring at a blinking cursor for a good few minutes. Time is long up. I want to end this with some bit of wit or wisdom, but I haven’t got any. Just go hug your mom or your mom-figure. Or call her if she’s not close by. Because of course I don’t hate Mother’s Day and I don’t want to tear down moms. I love my Mom. The older I get, the more I appreciate all the sacrifices she made for me.

What I want is space for suffering. Space for the lack of the American Dream fulfilled. Space for weak bodies and complicated situations and marriages that have taken a beating. Space for tears. Space to think that women are insane for not using any and all pain medications available during labor because I’ve had surgery and ain’t nobody got time for that. Space to roll my eyes over the fact that every little thing in Western Christianity is oriented around children, around the family, thereby leaving out significant portions of the Body. Space to be the cool auntie with the good fashion sense who lets kids eat the candy their parents don’t allow. Space for questions. Space for bruises and blood tests and surgical scars. Space to raise my hands in worship, in an unspoken message that my Creator hears: I am not what many think I should be. I do not have what many think I should have. But You – You are enough.

Stop.

Signature

Yank My Uterus

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Bluntness ahead. I do not intend to offend, but proceed with caution if you are in possession of thin skin.

I believe in writing honestly.

I also believe there is wisdom in knowing when to write and when to keep silent.

No author is obligated to share absolutely everything with her audience. We bloggers may spill our creative blood all over the internet, but we are allowed privacy. We can hold things back without becoming liars.

At first, I wanted to keep this to myself. But here goes.

In a few hours, I will have a hysterectomy.

The more I thought about it, the more irritated I got that I had this sense of needing to keep the thing a secret. Millions of women suffer each and every day. We experience pain and a diminished quality of life. We feel like we can’t talk about it because, though skin and sex are casually splashed everywhere, the workings of our bodies remain taboo. The message is clear: keep it sensual, darlings, maybe occasionally athletic, or shut up.

If men were in our position, billions of dollars would be dedicated to finding a solution.

Enough.

There is a woman out there who needs to hear that she is not a freak of nature after a hysterectomy. She needs to be told that she is more than the function or presence of an organ. She needs to know that she is bright, lovely and amazing, with or without all of her factory parts.

A declaration, for myself and for you, dear lady:

I refuse to believe that I am any less beautiful or any less valuable because I no longer have a uterus. I reject the notion that my scars make me disgusting. (In fact, I think they make me fierce, because I’ve been to war and lived to tell the tale). I reject the belief that I’m ugly because my belly may never be totally flat. I am more than skin, more than surface. I am vibrant, vital and vivacious. I have a lot of love to give. I will nurture life, looking for opportunities to uplift and encourage others. This is not the end of my story, but merely a plot device, designed to bring me into the next chapter.

I know that I will feel depressed and anxious after surgery. This is normal. I won’t feel this way forever. I know that I will be in pain. That won’t last forever, either. I am going to rest and take my medication and ask for help and rock long tunics, leggings and comfy dresses for as long as I want. I’ll wear my hair big and messy, too, because why not? Or I will get all glammed up the second I’m able, even if I’m staying home, because also why not? My beauty is mine to own and to style.

I know that it will take me up to 12 months to fully heal internally. This will frustrate me sometimes, but I will give myself grace. It’s a journey, a process. The days may seem long but the months will go by faster than I expect.

As they say, haters gonna hate. I will let negative comments go in one ear and out the other. I know I made the best decision I could. I will not allow regret or “what if?” to weigh me down. I won’t stay stuck. I will move forward. I will surround myself with honest, supportive people who may not always understand, but who will accept me as I am and give me the necessary, gentle pushes to keep going.

I’m still me. I’m still a woman, and a complete one at that. I have passion and drive and interests. I bring a lot to the table. This is but a blip on the radar screen.

********

Now why, you might wonder (if you’re the nosy type), am I getting this hysterectomy?

– I’ve been in constant pain for years. Manageable a lot of the time, sure, but still. Constant pain. I’ve tried everything to treat the problem, to no avail. It just keeps getting worse. Why on earth would I want to keep dealing with that? Why on earth should I keep dealing with that? Nobody gets a medal for suffering. It’s not noble. It’s not romantic.

– I’ve never been “regular” (oh, no – I’m talking about menstrual cycles; shield your eyes and hide your children). It’s either nothing or a scene that Quentin Tarantino would envy. This brings with it a host of concerns. Cancer risk increases. Infection risk increases. My gynecologist put me on progesterone, the absolute, no exceptions, only hormone that I can possibly use, at the lowest dose, in an attempt to “flush things out” and that didn’t really work.

– I can’t have kids (and even if there’s some chance that I can, I shouldn’t). Imagine living with the constant worry of being placed in the “high risk and probably going to get liver cancer, which is hard to treat (not impossible, but hard), so there’s a good chance you’ll die” category if by some miracle you did get pregnant. Imagine how that would impact your marriage. You don’t exactly want to get frisky with your husband when you hurt and when you’re worried about dying sooner than you’d like, most likely taking any baby with you in the process. Don’t talk to me about “leaving it in God’s hands.” God never, ever requires anyone to operate without sense. God never, ever requires anyone to deny reality. That’s bad doctrine. Go sit in a corner. Oh, and don’t come at me with “the Bible never mentions hysterectomy so it’s bad.” The Bible never mentions the internet that you’re using. Go sit in a corner again.

– The longer I keep this jacked-up spare part, the greater my chances of developing the uterine cancer that runs in my family.

– I can’t treat the issues hormonally (save for the aforementioned progesterone that didn’t work). I must not take acetaminophen for the pain. I have to use ibuprofen and naproxen sparingly. (Thanks, freakish damaged liver. I loathe you). Herbs and oils and supplements…just no. Don’t go there with me. They’re unregulated, so who knows what anybody’s really getting in that capsule that promises sparkling unicorns and rainbows. Plus most of that stuff is more dangerous for my liver than any painkiller. And massages and chiropractic…more no. #thatsnothowanyofthisworks

I didn’t arrive at this decision overnight. It’s been…I’d say about 5 years in the making. I’m nervous, of course, because, well, it’s major surgery, but that nervousness is dwarfed by a sense of anticipation, which I know will be followed by relief. No more cramping that keeps me in bed. No more big ol’ clots. The idea that maybe, just maybe, I can actually enjoy sex again. (Yes, I said it. Sex is a good thing).

I’m not a moron. I know the risks. You don’t wind up with a foot-long incision on your belly, the result of a tumor, without knowing the risks of surgery.

So out the uterus goes, and I’m not ashamed. I’m not “selfish” because I want one less health problem to think about. I’m not “sinful” because I chose to heed the advice of four different doctors instead of trying to manipulate God by “praying it away” (not that we shouldn’t pray for healing; there’s just a difference between requesting in faith and demanding a specific response) or using products sold by a multi-level marketing (read: pyramid scheme) company in the hopes they’ll work their magic or availing myself of mystical energy healing or following the direction of a blogger dispensing medical advice despite lack of any real medical knowledge. My life isn’t going to suck, I’m not going to become emotionally numb, I’m not going to lose my mind, I’m not going to walk around singing, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…” I won’t sit in a chair, staring out the window, sighing heavily for the rest of my poor, sad, useless days. I’m not “less of a woman” because I will now lack a uterus. I mean, part of me is concerned that I’m losing the essence of my personhood, because I’m pretty sure it’s contained in my uterus, but I think I can find some essence on the black market. (If you don’t recognize that sarcasm, I can’t help you).

Christian women need to stand up and lead in these discussions of body and health. It’s time for us to reject the bad message that says our beauty must fit a certain mold, the bad theology that says we cannot be fulfilled or used by God without children or the possibility of any children or additional children and the bad cultural assumptions that keep us holding on when we need to let go. Imagine if we took control of the narrative. Imagine if we stopped being silent. What if we made sensible decisions and talked about them? What if we modeled the hope that God has a good plan, regardless of what happens, to the rest of the world? What if we realized that the 2.5 kids and the white picket fence are not, in fact, a promise found in Scripture? What if we dared to believe that we are women, even if we lose our breasts, our ovaries, our uteruses, our hair – because that’s who God made us to be? That it’s something more than outward appearance? What if we stopped judging ourselves and others by the modern Western ideal of womanhood? What if we looked to the Lord and said, “Thy will be done”?

Lord God, King of my life, Light of my world, Lover of my soul – Thy will be done. I am in Your hands.

Surgeon, yank my uterus. Get it out of there. Give me another set of sweet abdominal scars. I am a battle-hardened warrior, filled with the Spirit of the Living God. I fear not.

Let’s do this.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Silvia Tomo