I Blame Amelia Bedelia

I have always been an avid reader. Maybe it was the result of being an only child—reading is usually a solitary activity—or maybe I just love stories. By the time I was in school and able to check out books from the library, I couldn’t get enough of Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish. The title character had a habit of taking every word literally and out-of-context:

“Amelia Bedelia, the sun will fade the furniture. I asked you to draw the drapes,” said Mrs. Rogers.

“I did! I did! See,” said Amelia Bedelia. She held up her picture.*

That particular blunder by Amelia—sketching a picture instead of closing the curtains—especially bothered me as a kid. My mother had taught me that furniture is an investment: couches are for sitting, not dining. The idea of faded or stained fabric worried little me to no end!

Amelia Bedelia came back to haunt me when we bought our late-nineteenth-century American Foursquare. It still has the original wavy-glass windows. They are gorgeous; but they are energy inefficient, let in all sorts of road noise, and without that modern low-E coating new windows have, my upholstery started fading. Fast. Now big me is reliving the worry; I literally draw—as in, close—the drapes wherever the sun streams in the afternoons.

Is it partially Amelia Bedelia’s fault that the word literally has become a too-common almost-meaningless adverb we all drop into sentences whether or not we actually mean what we are saying literally? I used that word a lot in my new book about how to read the Bible, and each time I checked myself: Do I really mean literally? Or am I describing something figuratively? The misuse of the word has become one of my adult pet peeves. Too often people end stories by saying, “That literally blew my mind!” No, no it didn’t, or you wouldn’t be sitting there. Amelia Bedelia and every second grader in America know better.

One place where the word literally gets above-average use is the church. It has become fashionable for some Christians to brag that they take every word of their chosen Bible translation “literally,” as would Amelia Bedelia. She was always well-intentioned but consistently struggled to understand the difference between what people said and what they meant. We shouldn’t want to emulate Amelia in this way, especially in our relationships with Scripture.

KJVmatthew
In the post was a side-argument over which version of the KJV is best—the 1611 or the 1769. For some, nothing but a photocopy of the hand-inked book presented to King James himself would do.

As I was writing about biblical translation techniques for Blue Eye Shadow, I ran across a social media post claiming that only the King James Version of the Bible has literally preserved God’s Word. I was shocked by what I read. The anger that so many of the 100+ respondents hold toward other Bible versions and the people who translated them or prefer them leaves no room for grace and love of others.

As I got deeper into the post, I realized how ill-informed they were about language. Many argued for sola KJV with half-facts or complete ignorance of Scripture’s historical development and translation process.

Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy the KJV. I particularly prefer its use of “charity” rather than “love” in 1 Corinthians 13 because Paul is not discussing romantic love in that letter, as modern readers tend to assume when the chapter is read out of its context. That chapter wouldn’t be so commonly misused in weddings if Bible translation had stopped in 1611.

Many Christian literalists, even those brazen enough to study the NKJV, claim their Bibles contain word-for-word literal translations of the Hebrew and Greek. But that is literally impossible. One word in Hebrew often requires an entire sentence in English, as a two-word sentence in French—je t’aime—requires three words in English: “I love you.” Such a translation is called by some “phrase-by-phrase,” acknowledging the grammatical differences between languages, and it is no better or worse than word-for-word. In fact, both are necessary in good translations.

But language should not be flattened into definitions and grammar. When it is, we are left wondering if a curtain should be drawn with a pencil or drawn closed by a hand. Both meanings of drawn are literally correct, but the contexts of culture and situation inform the meaning of the word.

All languages are filled with figurative phrases in their prose and poetry that are easily lost in translation when translators and readers are unfamiliar with foreign cultures. “Love” is represented by a heart in English, but ancient Israelites might have used a lotus instead. Likewise, King James’s seventeenth-century British subjects declared love with spoons, whereas spooning has a totally different meaning to Westerners today.

Insisting that every word of Scripture must have a literal meaning that is the same in all languages at all times limits the power of words and ideas. The Bible’s literature is simply too deep and too creative to have its range of meanings diminished to fit into our narrow minds. To better understand and appreciate God’s Word, we must study not only the words of a Bible translation but also the cultures that recorded them yesterday and that hear them today. God’s truth never changes, but languages do.

Just ask Amelia Bedelia.

*Peggy Parish, Amelia Bedelia (1963; New York: HarperFestival, 1999), 48.

Who Cares about “Blue Eye Shadow”?

The title of my next book, Mary Magdalene Never Wore Blue Eye Shadow, is not so much a statement of fact as it is an acknowledgement of how easy it is to mischaracterize biblical figures.

Technically, Mary could have worn eye shadow, as it has existed for thousands of years. In Egypt and Babylonia, where many cosmetics originated, eye shadow had not only a decorative purpose but was also thought to protect sensitive eyelids from the sun and insects. Minerals such as malachite would be ground into a powder like today’s popular “mineral makeup” and smeared directly on the skin with rigid spatulas.

Archaeologists have found makeup containers and tools in Israel, so it was used by God’s own people. But the Bible suggests that makeup was not worn by everyone as it may have been in other cultures. When makeup is mentioned in the Bible, it is associated with evil and sexually immoral women. For example, Jezebel–another biblical character whose name is synonymous with prostitution–wore makeup (2 Kings 9:30).

The association of makeup with prostitution is ancient and enduring. As recently as the twentieth century, polite Western society equated actresses, dancers, and even opera singers with loose morals. To this day I worry that I might “look cheap” when I wear heavier makeup for an evening out or in front of a camera.

The Bible never says that Mary Magdalene “painted her face” (KJV) as Jezebel did, so why did popular culture lump her in with immoral women for so long? (Yes, if you read or watched The DaVinci Code, then you already know the answer.) In the sixth century, Pope Gregory I was bothered by the fact that the “sinner” who washed Jesus’ feet in Luke 7:36-50 was unnamed. So he tried to “fix” God’s Holy Scripture by assigning her story to the next female named in the text. Since Gregory was the church’s supreme authority on earth at the time (and Protestantism was still a century away), no one questioned his word.  And then the rumor grew, as they tend to do, and the sinner became an adulteress who became a prostitute.

MaryMagLeonardodaVinci.jpg
Her artistic portrayal as a sexually immoral woman was common by the Renaissance. Leonardo da Vinci skipped the makeup in his c. 1515 topless, red-haired portrait of her, but I suppose no one is looking at her face in this particular masterpiece.

Mary Magdalene has endured centuries of slander simply because her story begins in Luke 8:2, a mere two verses after Jesus’ highly aromatic pedicure.

Many traditional artistic depictions of Mary Magdalene imply that she was a prostitute by “painting” her face with garish makeup. Our 1980s Sunday School felt boards were among the worst offenders; the Mary Magdalene paper doll was always the prettiest one, thanks to her bright clothes, heavy jewelry, dark tan, and dreamy batting eyes. I remember a  golden castanet in each hand too. But that Mary would have fit better seducing the shah in One Thousand and One Arabian Nights than visiting Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning.

Such false traditions are incorrect and can undermine our interpretations of Scripture. They need to be recognized, debunked, and shelved under Fiction; but that is difficult to do when untruth is “common knowledge” that has been immortalized by artists and is believed by Bible teachers themselves.

If Mary wore eye shadow–and I doubt that she did–it was to repel insects and UV rays, not to attract men.

My Next Book

The first time I spoke with my then-soon-to-be editor at Harvest House Publishers, she asked me, “What would you love to write next?”

I fumbled and rambled in my answer. The truth was I had decided the previous week that I was done with publishing. I wasn’t, at that moment, passionate about much of anything. So I told her about the book I had optioned to another publisher back in 2014 as my intended follow-up to Barren among the Fruitful.

At that time–and to this day–I saw among many Christians the tendency to know what they believe but maybe not why they believe it. I think this condition is perpetuated by two things: an unwillingness or inability to read the Bible in its contexts, and an accidental elevation of religious traditions to the level of biblical Scripture.

My book would teach readers the importance of historical, literary, and cultural contexts when interpreting Scripture; encourage them to explore the text and question their traditions when the two are contradictory; and remind them that the Bible is God’s complex and mysterious revelation of Himself to us. It is not to be shelved with self-help books, magic-8 balls, history and science textbooks, or even the church’s sermons, hymns, confessions, or creeds.

By the time we said goodbye an hour later, I had talked myself into writing that book. There was one potential problem: the manuscript I’d outlined was heavy. Heavy topics can make boring books, and no one wants to read a boring book! Could I make the material educational, accessible, and entertaining for a postmodern, speed-obsessed, Netflix-bingeing population?

We are almost a year away from readers being able to answer that question–and your answers are the only ones that matter! As of today, the manuscript is complete. The book is about to be typeset, and the cover will be designed soon. As October 15, 2019 nears, I’ll share snippets of the book, but until then here are a few chapter titles that I hope will make you curious to read more:

  • George Washington Was No Cherry Picker
  • Indiana Jones and the Buried Scripture
  • Seeing Cinderella’s Slipper Clearly
  • Macbeth and the Self-fulfilling Prophecies

If you want to learn about that leather-bound, ribbon-marked, so-called book on your shelf and you enjoy myths, histories, novels, or watching Sheldon in syndication; then I think you’ll find something to love in Mary Magdalene Never Wore Blue Eye Shadow: How to Trust the Bible when Truth and Traditions Collide.

Exciting Announcement

The sound machine stopped raining, and David’s alarm went off. As I do every morning, I reached to the phone on my nightstand. It read, “2 NEW E-MAILS.” 

Before I reveal their contents, please allow me to explain the context in which I received them…

* * *

Thomas Nelson Publishers requested and published Barren among the Fruitful as part of the InScribed Collection. It was an exciting time that ultimately ended in my own and other authors’ heartbreak.*

As David and I left Colorado in 2015, I was professionally rudderless and wounded. I found myself in a new place I knew could become my lifelong home, but where I could not envision my professional future. I prayed for direction and peace.

I carried with me from Denver one particularly enduring friendship with Stephanie. We were coauthoring a manuscript based on her experiences as a news anchor with the aim of encouraging young women to find success and contentment not in worldly achievements but in their relationships with God. But our work had begun to feel like a pipe dream as I returned to my years of freelance proofing, editing, and ghostwriting. The only yes we’d had was from a vanity publisher who would print our book as long as we paid a ridiculous sum for him to do so. Stephanie had a publicist who was still shopping our book to traditional publishers, but I was just jaded enough to assume that would fizzle to nothing.

To pull myself out of the melancholy, I decided to abandon writing (unless I could help my friend), and I signed up for a class at the local college that would result in a building contractor’s license. David and I agreed: it was time to start a new chapter of our lives. I would take my love of and skills in restoration and become a residential contractor, if for no other reason than to work confidently on our own house.

* * *

Those 2 e-mails were a full stop to our new plans.

The first was a very polite rejection letter for Stephanie’s and my coauthored book. It was more than polite–it was helpful. The acquisitions editor who wrote it took the time to explain why our book wasn’t a fit for her publisher, and she offered some suggestions. This is practically unheard of; writers are typically lucky to receive even a form letter of rejection.

The second e-mail was from the same acquisitions editor, but sent only to me. She had self-admittedly “cyber stalked” me after receiving our book proposal based on my bio and curriculum vitae. She wondered what my plans were for a follow-up to Barren among the Fruitful and asked to chat.

I was shocked. Thrilled. Nervous. This had all come about because of Stephanie’s efforts to get our book published, but now I had a publisher coming directly to me. As soon as David got out the door to work, I called Stephanie.

She answered the phone in her usual energetic way that makes even saying “hello” a challenge! She agreed with me that the rejection was so nice–even encouraging. But she went on to say, “The whole time I was reading about what they are looking for in their authors, I kept thinking, They just need to sign Amanda!”

“Well, Stephanie, as a matter of fact….” I told her about the other email. She was (and continues to be) over-the-moon thrilled for me.

So here is the exciting announcement: I have indeed signed with Harvest House Publishers for my next book. I will turn over my manuscript on June 30, 2018, and the book will be published October 15, 2019. Its title is tentative, but its contents are not. I’ll tell you all about it in my next post…

*Since I wrote that blog post, the InScribed Collection has been rebooted with new authors.

“Insight” on Infertility and a Giveaway!

I hope you caught my interview on Miracle Channel’s daily program, Insight. I enjoyed my hour speaking with Paul Arthur and the callers who have been touched by infertility in various ways.

As I mentioned on the episode, I am running a short contest aimed at getting viewers and readers talking about the best ways to encourage friends and loved ones who are struggling with infertility diagnoses. I will send a copy of my book, Barren among the Fruitful, and a “Be Hopeful” necklace to one winner.

To enter the contest, you must do 2 things.

(1) Please answer this question in the comments section below: What do you think is the ideal reaction to a loved one who tells you he or she is struggling to have a child?

AND

(2) click a Rafflecopter giveaway. There you sign in with your Facebook account or email address, check “I commented!”

Good luck!

I’m Ready to Have a Good Day

It’s been almost 4 months since you’ve heard from me, and there’s a reason for that. The day of my last post, I learned that Barren‘s publisher had decided not to publish more books in the InScribed Collection. This decision has touched me professionally and emotionally. I am wondering how God will use me now. (On bad days, I’m wondering if He even wants to use me.)

The seven books in the collection are different from anything else on the market because of their origins. We 7 authors are truly friends. We were all brought together by Ashley Linne and the publisher’s editorial staff in 2013; and from the moment we met, we “clicked.” Yes, we promote each other’s work, but we tend to be more concerned with each other’s lives. In just 2 years we’ve birthed 3 babies and made 4 cross-country moves. Our Facebook Group page looks more like a family’s daily ramblings than a work site.

The team’s dedication to God and each other over our concerns for our own works made all of our books better. We learned from each other. I would do a theological review for one author while another was teaching me how to blog (or do anything tech-related!). I know this is a unique community experience among authors. I don’t know how to move forward without them going with me. So at the moment, I’m not moving forward. I’m mourning. I’m waiting.

I learned during David’s and my 7 years of fertility treatments that God teaches me the most when I’m not doing anything but listening. But I’m a where-there’s-a-will-there’s-a-way kind of girl. Just ask my parents: Back in 2002 they said, “Sure you can go dig in Israel–if you get a full scholarship to do it.” One week later, I gave them the “good” news. Or ask my husband: This summer he rightly said, “We don’t have the money to get that fig tree removed.” So I sold it instead!

It wasn’t until 5-or-so years ago that I learned, “God helps those who help themselves,” is not a Bible verse. It is an American adage with inherent value, but I tend to live as if it is Scripture. God made me tenacious, but He wants me to doggedly pursue His will and not my own plans.

The Eternal One is good to those who expect Him,
     to those who seek Him wholeheartedly.
It is good to wait quietly
     for the Eternal to make things right again.
It is good to have to deal
     with restraint and burdens when young
(Lamentations 3:25-27, VOICE).

In 586 BC Jerusalem was razed by the Babylonians, and her prominent citizens were exiled to Babylon or other cities within the Empire. The Book of Lamentations was written shortly after the war to the Israelites who remained in Jerusalem; and in this passage, the writer is encouraging his suffering readers to wait patiently but expectantly for God to act.

Verse 27 points out that the burden of suffering is best experienced when one is young. Two things result from suffering in youth: one learns that affliction is temporary while God’s mercy is permanent, and someone who survives suffering at an early age is less likely to be consumed by it when she is older.

So I’m learning. I know that when disaster and loss come, God is faithful and has a will and a plan that supersede my circumstances.

I’m waiting. I’m reading the Bible and praying. I’m asking advice from friends and colleagues, but I’m keeping myself from pursuing a new goal until God makes clear where He intends for me to go next.

And I’m sad that I can’t return to the nurturing community of authors and editors I enjoyed as Barren was published, but I am encouraged that God is somehow preparing me to better work for His Kingdom.

That confidence in Him makes today a good day.

The Dangerous Secret of Infertility

A new friend of mine asked me to guest post on her blog, In Due Time. Jump over there and register for another chance to win a signed copy of my book and a “Be Hopeful” necklace. Happy reading! Happy winning! –Amanda

I don’t think any young married woman expects to have difficulty conceiving. I was 24, and David and I had been married about 2 years when we “stopped preventing” pregnancy. I guess we were still in fairytale land to some degree. No longer newlyweds, but still gaga for each other. (Eleven years later, I’m happy to say we still are!) After almost 2 more years of not preventing, we knew we had a problem.

For me, the diagnoses of the infertility-causing Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and an autoimmune disease were embarrassing. Here I was: a woman with the reputation of accomplishing much of what she put her mind to who couldn’t do the very thing God had created her body to do. I realized I might break His very first commandment: “Be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28).

But there was hope! The fertility clinic we attended the first time said I was young, they saw this all the time, and they had a generic plan that was likely to work. To be honest, the whole experience was like being on a conveyer belt: pills, wait, ultrasounds, shot, intrauterine insemination, wait, negative pregnancy test, repeat. We later were embittered by their process, but leaving the clinic that first day we were thoroughly convinced by their nonchalance that we had nothing to worry about. We almost felt normal.

That’s when we decided not to breathe a word about our situation to anyone. We thought it would all be over soon, and we certainly didn’t want to have to talk about it with loved ones and nosy strangers alike.

If the fertility treatments had worked well, if we had birthed a healthy baby within the first year or two, and if we hadn’t had the additional heartbreak of miscarriage; then our “silence policy” would have made sense. Unfortunately 7 years and 5 miscarriages later, we were stuck on a deserted island surrounded by an ocean of secrets, tragedy, and despair. Yes, we had each other, but that really wasn’t enough.

So, what is a woman to do—tell the world you are pregnant just as soon as you know, building a potential support network if the worst happens, or wait until more people are asking why your waistline is widening than aren’t and hope you never need that support network? There isn’t an exact answer, but the safe road is probably straight down the middle. If you find you are pregnant, then tell those closest to you—those whom you trust. At the top of that list should be God. Let Him in on your fears, and allow Him to comfort you. [Amanda Hope Haley, Barren among the Fruitful (Nashville: HarperCollins Christian, 2014), 96.]

If I had it to do over again, the first person I would have told would have been my mama. She and I have always been best friends. She taught French at my high school, and I chose to have my locker right next to her room every year. I loved that she knew every detail of my life. And I’m pretty sure she loved that too. We were a constant support for each other (and you need that when you’re in high school—or teaching high schoolers!).

I don’t think there had ever been a secret between us, so there was no way I could hide the fact that I was keeping a secret. For years there was an elephant in the middle of every conversation. We could both see it, but I was the only one who knew what it was. She was hurt that I apparently no longer trusted her. I felt guilty for hurting her. She didn’t know she was hurting me every time she mentioned her future grandchildren or bought a bassinet to keep at her house “just in case.” It was a vicious cycle that damaged our relationship, and it was all my fault.

So why didn’t I just fess up? Because after you’ve started keeping a secret that is literally about life and death, it’s pretty hard to catch someone up years later.

As all secrets do, the truth eventually came tumbling out of me. Mama and Daddy found out what was going on after a Mother’s Day church service when I pulled her back down into the seat next to me and confessed I’d had 3 miscarriages. That was not ideal. To put it mildly.

What started out as David and me not wanting to “make a big deal” out of our situation grew into monster of a deal. It has taken years to repair the damage our secret did to our loved ones, and it multiplied our own pain exponentially when we didn’t allow others to comfort and pray for us.

So don’t do what we did. Take that middle road, and tell your loved ones what is happening in your life. The healing will start immediately.

Surviving Mother’s Day…with Some Covert Honesty

Last winter I had a telephone interview with Rachael Jackson, president of Shattered Media. She compiled a lot of what we discussed into an article for Shattered Magazine, hoping those who have friends and family suffering with infertility will learn what words are comforting and what words are hurtful, especially on Mother’s Day.

Survival Tip 5: “7 Things Not to Say to Couples Dealing With Infertility”

Amanda Hope Haley, author of Barren Among the Fruitful: Navigating Infertility with Hope, Wisdom, and Patience, and her husband struggled for infertility in silence for almost seven years. Seven Mother’s Days went by in silent pain. Month after month of trying, five miscarriages, and who knows how many negative pregnancy tests had ended with no children. Believing it was one thing God had created her to do, she turned inward—tracking her temperature, food, exercise, ovulation, everything. Amanda geared her entire life toward one major task: getting pregnant.

“Why am I not good enough?” Amanda wondered, all while struggling with shame and depression. For years, Amanda Hope Haley went to Mother’s Day services, baby showers, and baby dedications for all of her friends in her life group—seven of them to be exact—putting up the smile and her white picket fence. Amanda carried the burden alone until one day she could carry it no longer.

One Sunday morning, they were at the end of their rope and almost done trying to have children. Innocently, a guy at church asked her, “How’s it going?” and Amanda literally collapsed onto the floor and dissolved into a bucket of tears. The women came and picked her up to comfort her and hold her, and in the midst of their care, she blurted out loud that she had been in therapy, struggling with infertility and was incredibly messed up inside by depression. Their response to her “confession?” Well, what do you know, they had been going to therapy too. The women found common ground and support from each other as they shared their stories.

And it was that moment—when she fell apart and heard the stories of the women helping her—that she learned the Christian life is about relationships. Real, open, and authentic relationships where truth can be shared unashamedly because of the common bond in Christ, who has offered us all hope.

But sometimes, we just don’t know what to do in relationships with people who are struggling. And sometimes, when we don’t know what to say or do, we just turn away. And sometimes, we even say things that are incredibly hurtful and insensitive, even when spoken earnestly and in love.

So to help you this Mother’s Day, here is Amanda Hope Haley’s list of seven things to NOT say to couples enduring infertility:

1. “Sarah was 90 when she had children.”
Really? Does this need to be explained?

2. “Oh yeah, that happened to my sister.”
You might be trying to identify with your friend, but it minimizes the problem, and leaves her wondering why she is so hurt by it if everyone gets through it.

3. “Do you think maybe you’re not doing it right?”
Come on. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist.

4. “Well at least you know you can get pregnant.”
This was actually spoken to Amanda after one of her miscarriages and is not something a grieving woman wants or needs to hear after losing a child.

5. “Just give it time, you’re young and it will be fine.”
That was the comment at age 25. Everyone at the clinic said “it’s fine…” But at 30, everything changed and Amanda became “old.” The tone changed to “you waited too long.” She struggled with the guilt of deciding to get her education because she was young and had time, but then Amanda felt like she had done something wrong and it was somehow her fault for pursuing her degrees.

6. “You can always adopt.”
Her husband told her once that she was thinking about adoption like it was a consolation prize. But the fact was that she wasn’t wanting to adopt because she had a heart for it, she would have been adopting so that she could get to the goal of having a child. That’s not the heart for adoption; adoption is a calling. As a result of Amanda not feeling the call to adopt, people would act like it’s the most horrible thing in the world to not want to adopt but to desire biological children. Amanda knows God is blessing children through them in other ways they couldn’t if they had their own kids, and she is thankful for those opportunities. But they feel judged when people are astonished that they don’t choose to adopt one of the million kids in the world.

7. “Just pray harder.” “You’re such a good person.” “God will give you the desires of your heart.” “Just have faith and believe.”

A lot of people throw faith out as the solution. But she felt like she had a broken body when she couldn’t even do the one thing God had created women to do. With a broken spirit, too, she questioned God: “Why am I not good enough?” It wasn’t helpful to just tell her to have more faith, when it was God she was struggling with. There are unintended consequences to slapping a Bible verse on a problem and calling it done.

Instead of thinking that you have to have the answer, maybe just admit that you have no answers. Amanda Hope Haley suggests you ask people how they’re doing. It’s that simple. Don’t feel like you have to be so quick to defend God or cheer them up. Simply spend time with them, allowing them to be sad, and walking with them. There’s no pat answer to infertility on Mother’s Day. You just have to be on the journey with them.

The presence of Amanda’s friends who loved her and opened up to her allowed her to see God more clearly. Amanda shared with me the hope she finally sees in her infertility:

“God used that time to teach me a whole lot and the main thing is that it is not all about me. He taught me that it is about Him and His will. The biggest revelation I had during that period about His will (is that) God has one will and that is reconciliation of humanity to Himself. He has paths and plans for us, but everything He has planned for us in our lives is about His one will. I had to change my prayers from please give me a baby to please just let me be in your will. I know that I will only be happy when I am in your will.”

Before church on Sunday, post this on your social media. Maybe you’ll avoid some awkward conversations by letting Rachael and me do the complaining for you. 😉

So how do you respond to the comments that are meant to be helpful but hurt you instead? Comment below with your stories or tips, and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Barren among the Fruitful and a “Be Hopeful” necklace! I’ll contact the winner tomorrow. Good luck!

Surviving Mother’s Day…at Church

When David and I still lived in Middle Tennessee, we were super-involved with our church. We assumed (and assumed others assumed about us) that since we didn’t have children, we had more time to do stuff for the body. If we heard of a need somewhere, we did our best to help. That’s how we ended up hosting a Life Group, prepping Communion every Sunday, and basically being available to do whatever whenever. And we loved (almost) every minute of it.

About five years ago, those responsibilities dovetailed just before a Mother’s Day service. While I was pouring juice into hundreds of tiny cups, one of my LG friends told me she was miscarrying. Because my David was away for work and her husband was serving elsewhere in the building that morning, I sat with my friend and saw the Mother’s Day service through her eyes:

Opening Scripture: Psalm 139:13; Jeremiah 1:5; and every other “womb” verse you can think of
Praise Song: “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord (You Give and Take Away)”
Interlude: 10,000 baby dedications
Teaching: “Born of Flesh and Spirit”
Closing: Standing ovation for all the moms

I don’t remember the exact details of the service. I do remember how that Mother’s Day felt in light of the pain in my friend’s posture and face.

Survival Tip 4: Know the Best Place to Worship

Why do we join church families? Just to have somewhere to go on Sunday morning?

God wants us to worship in a community because we learn and grow better when we are together. We should be each other’s supporters, challengers, cheerleaders, and keepers. And we need to recognize when each role is appropriate.

Mother’s Day is one of those Sundays we choose to cheer for moms and the hard work they do all year. Certainly they deserve the praise! But we also need to be cognizant of our sisters who need support those same days.

One great thing about moms is that they don’t want to hurt others. By nature they are nurturers. I bet they’d be just as content with a subtle “you’re awesome!” from the pulpit, knowing the traditional fireworks display is hurting their infertile sisters.

Besides, it’s their kiddos’ drawings and husbands’ breakfasts that they look forward to and remember, right?

So I say, hey Sunday-morning service organizers: dial it back a notch. Save the baby dedications and emotional songs for another day.

(And kudos to our old church for doing just that in the following years!)

My anecdote tells the stories of two women: one who is miscarrying (my friend) and one who has accepted God’s plan for her not to have children (me). I was at the place spiritually and emotionally where I could honestly sing, “You give and take away. My heart will choose to say, ‘Lord, blessed be Your Name.'” My friend was NOT. She needed support (which I hope I offered) and the love and healing only God could give to her.

God will find you, no matter where you choose to worship Him on Mother’s Day. If you look at your church’s order of service and think, “I can’t do this,” then find a place and a way to honor Him privately. Tell Him about your pain and fear. Ask Him to heal your spirit. Then commit to living your life according to His plan for you.

That private worship time will honor God and bless you better than any corporate service where you spend 90 minutes fighting back tears.

So how do you worship God on Mother’s Day? Comment below with your stories or tips, and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Barren among the Fruitful and a “Be Hopeful” necklace!

Surviving Mother’s Day…with Family

David and I had been married for five years: the point when people stop asking “when will you” and start asking “why haven’t you had children?” We had just started treatments, and neither of us were ready to talk about our situation with anyone. (We weren’t even talking about it with each other very much!)

At a child’s birthday party, David and I were pleasantly laughing as the kiddo struggled to open my too-well-taped present when we heard an extended family member stage-whisper, “Look at Amanda smiling at the baby. Maybe she’ll let David have children after all.” I fought back tears as David made a quick goodbye to the parents, and we left.

Ah, family. Why do some of us think it is okay to check our tact at the door? Why do we assume we know everything about others’ lives? Family probably doesn’t need a special occasion to get into your business, but Mother’s Day will give the inconsiderate an extra-special license. Parenting is the theme of the day, so if you are present and married, they’ll be wondering why you aren’t diving into the festivities.

Survival Tip 3: Start Telling Your Story

A few years into our fertility adventure, I realized that the best way to interact with everyone I knew was with the truth. My silence only bred more questions in others.

But when you’re still working through the immediate pain of losing a child or not conceiving one, inconsiderate comments and questions hurt (no matter who says them) and can force you out of a cheerful child’s birthday party in a fit of tears and trembling.

So know where you are in your healing process. Surround yourself with your closest, most trusted family members, and make sure they know your situation. No one will protect you better than your favorite aunt or loving mom. They can watch out for you at events, advise you how to react, and tell you it is okay not to attend this birthday party or that holiday luncheon when you are at your lowest.

As you heal, you’ll find it is easier to tell everyone what is happening in your life, and I’d bet the inconsiderate comments cease. Knowledge can produce understanding, and understanding can yield love. And fertility patients need all the love and support they can get, especially from those who’ve known them all their lives.

So how do you prepare to face questions at holiday get-togethers? Comment below with your stories or tips, and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of Barren among the Fruitful and a “Be Hopeful” necklace!