Guest Author: Ashtyn Fair
I never expected to openly talk about our story until we were on the other side. I had hoped it would never even be our story in the first place. I remember being seven months into our journey and thinking “Surely we won’t hit a year.” I remember being a year in and thinking, “Surely we won’t hit two years.” Now I sit here at two years, and Taylor and I are still longing for God to give us our first child. And still I think, “Surely God will do it this year.”
What about you? What has your path to parenthood felt like? From experience, I’d assume it’s felt isolating, that it’s full of emotional ups and downs, confusion, and even despair. Your grief feels complex and unexplainable to those around you. Your joy is complicated as you hear another friend is pregnant with her second while you’re waiting for your first — you’re happy for her and sad for you and maybe even bombarded with shame because you’re not as happy as you want to be.
The process of pursuing a family is a physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally taxing experience. Your marriage may feel added tension as you both experience stress while also, you know, trying to make a baby — a real recipe for not a lot of fun. You may harbor anger toward your body for not doing what you think it ought to be able to do. You long for community that can meet you deeply in your darkest season, but instead feel remarkably more alone. You desire to exhaust every option no matter how extreme with the belief that if you just tried hard enough you could control the outcome. You’re asking God questions like “Why?” and “How long?” — and voiced or not, what you are really asking is “Are you actually good, God? Can I trust you?”
I’m so incredibly sorry if you’ve experienced this or are currently walking through it. My heart breaks with you. I want you to know your extreme weariness and tired eyes are seen by God as He sits next to you in the middle of this journey. Pay attention — the Spirit of God is found here in our suffering.
When suffering falls heavy on your shoulders where do you place the weight? Do you tell yourself to pull it together as you strap the heavy load more tightly onto your back? Or do you find yourself at the feet of Jesus with legs shaking underneath you as you drop the backpack of shame, anger, and despair before Him, feeling your body relax as He takes the burden. Do you actually ask for the easy yoke that Jesus offers? Or do you find yourself bearing the weight all on your own, gritting your teeth, and hanging onto as much control as possible?
I urge you to seriously reflect on which road you most readily choose, for it will be pivotal in your life and in your spiritual formation.
Scripture tells us that walking through suffering with God produces perseverance, good fruit, and hope. Meaning these very things are absent when we choose to side-eye God and keep Him at an arm’s length while we carry suffering around on our own. I’ve had plenty of those side-eye moments over the last two years. They come when the enemy tempts me to believe that God can’t actually be good. They come when I see the seventh pregnancy announcement that week and believe the lie that God has forgotten me. They come when I’m tired of feeling all the feelings and wanting to simply shut down and check out.
Maybe you’re in that place right now. You’re tired and weary, questioning His goodness, His presence with you, questioning if He sees you, if He even cares…so you’ve looked away. You probably wouldn’t say you’re “angry” at God or even “frustrated” — that’s not what “good Christians” feel, right? Maybe you’d just say you feel indifferent or distant from Him.
But I’m going to ask you in the middle of your sadness and frustration to look up at Him. Make eye contact again. Do you see Him?
This God in front of you knows every unsaid word in your heart and does not shame you.
This God you see was there when you found out you weren’t pregnant again.
This God looks at you and knows your questions and anger.
This God longs for you to talk to Him about it.
This God you see is a Miracle-worker.
This God you see renounces all shame the enemy has tried to use to tie you up.
This God, with the kindest of eyes, says “I see your pain. I weep with you. I am here with you.”
I have learned and experienced profound hope and joy throughout these trying circumstances. I do indeed know and believe that God is good, that He is near, and that Jesus is truly our only hope. I have discovered that relinquishing control of my plans (and really, every corner of my life) to a trusting and loving God produces freedom, an unexplainable joy, and peace.
Hope, joy, and peace can only be found when we bring our complaints to God. That may seem backward and even unChristian, but a life with Jesus that is not honest will lack wholeness. It will lack transformation. Bringing our lament and pain to God with honesty is how we come to know personally that Jesus is near to us through His Holy Spirit.
The more we experience our good Father with us at our darkest, the deeper we discover who He is and what He’s like. And that will lead to a new joy, new peace, and new hope. Read through a few psalms and you’ll discover that lament often ends in praise.
There is a profound and mysterious way that Jesus meets us in the middle of our pain. Praise God!
But first we must be honest with Him about it.
Today, take a few minutes and journal or type out how you’re feeling about your situation. Ask God to help you connect with Him and with yourself. And be honest. I pray that He would meet you in a tangible way that comforts you and leaves you with peace.
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31 (NIV)
Let us bow our hearts
and heads in prayer.
Our Father everlasting, Lord Jesus our crucified and risen savior, Holy Spirit our constant comforter, our triune God—you are the everlasting One. We believe in You! In this moment of corporate worship, we gather as your created and redeemed image bearers, your beloved bride the church, with minds focused on You and with hearts adoring You! With unity of Spirit, we trust You at all times! In these disruptive, turbulent, fearful and uncertain times, we cling to You. Though we find ourselves in uncharted territory, we know as our sovereign triune God this does not take You by surprise, nor, is this uncharted territory for You.
Lord, how great You are! You are our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble. You alone are our good shepherd! In You there is life with no lack. You lead us to green pastures and beside still waters. You restore our anxious and weary souls. Even in the darkest valleys, we will not fear, for You are right here with us. You are always attentive to us. You provide for us. You guide us. You watch behind us and You go before us. We find safety, comfort, peace, and joy in your omnipotent and loving nail scarred hands. We cast our cares on You, for You care for us, for nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
As your dependent yet expectant children, we come to You with humble hearts asking You to protect our congregation, our city, our nation, and the global community in this time of a global pandemic. We ask for your attentive presence and merciful care on the most vulnerable among us, those most physically vulnerable, emotionally vulnerable, and economically vulnerable. Grant to our medical researchers and health care workers protection from illness and give them in your grace extra strength and resilience. We pray for our local, city, state, and national governmental leaders and our business leaders, that You would protect them from illness and grant to them great wisdom and strength in the midst of so many demands and so much stress.
As a congregation, we pray that You would protect and provide for us in the ever changing and difficult days ahead. Help us to joyfully and sacrificially be the eyes, ears, hands, and feet of Jesus to each other and to our neighbors. And teach us to pray as Jesus taught us to pray…let us pray our Lord’s Prayer.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever.
If you really don’t want to know how your kid’s day went, ask them how their day went. I mean really, has that ever worked on any consistent basis?
The over-used “How was your day?” question rarely engenders any useful or meaningful dialogue, yet we continue to use it to gain insight into the lives of our children. There has to be a better way to engage our kids in conversation about their Monday lives!
This is where I find such great wisdom in the person of Jesus. He was masterful in the way He drew things out of people in the questions He asked and the stories He told. Can you imagine Jesus simply asking His disciples how their day was? No way. He would have some compelling question, perplexing parable, or intriguing inquiry that would lead to something deep, rich, and meaningful. How can we do the same with our families?
Let me offer five simple and fun alternative ways to ask your kids about their day, without asking your kids about their day. These are all practices we have used in various ways and at different times in our own family. And I should make it clear that parents are expected to be participants and not just facilitators in these practices. You can’t expect your kids to share about their days if you don’t model it for them.
True or False
Everyone at the table has to go around and share two things that happened that day. The trick is that one of those things must be totally false. Then the rest of the family has to vote to decide which one was true and which one was false. Once the truth is revealed then you can begin to ask more questions around that specific story. Clearly that story was significant in some way if they chose for it to be the true thing that happened that day. You now have an inroad to their day through this story.
Fill in the Blank
This is my favorite question to ask my kids at the dinner table because of how it both provides insight into their day and helps them process their feelings. Here is how it works. You choose someone at the table and then you choose a feeling. Once those are selected, you phrase the fill in the blank statement in this way. “Something that made Pearl frustrated was ________” The person then thinks back on their day through the lens of that feeling. It is always good to mix up the feelings you choose to help your children process a wide range of emotions. Not only do you learn more about their day, but this practice gives you the chance to help your kids process how and why they feel certain things.
High and Low
This is probably the most classic tactic, but it still works so well. You simply share the high and low points of your day. Similar to the fill in the blank question, this helps develop healthy categories of joy and sorrow in life. It is vital that our children know they have the freedom and permission to share the pains and heartaches of their life. We all know that life isn’t perfect, and this is a good way to provide a safe space to process the realities of our fallen world.
This one requires a little more creativity, but it is the one that produces the most laughter and smiles around our table. Have everyone choose something about their day that they want to share in story form. So rather than just reporting the facts of what happened, everyone recounts a particular event as if it were a fairy tale, sci-fi, mystery, or any kind of story. After the story-telling, ask them to translate it. For example, the dragon that they slayed in their story might be a metaphor for the spelling test that they got a perfect score on. The fun part is seeing the creativity of your kids and how they describe the ordinary things of their day in extraordinary ways.
Each person selects a story to share from their day, but they have to retell it in the most opposite way. Then everyone else has to try and interpret what really happened by flipping the story upside down. The fine part of this tactic is that it gets everyone at the table talking together and focusing on one story. It is also quite hilarious at times to see what your kids consider to be the opposite of things in their day.
These suggestions are by no means the silver bullets that will make your dinner table discussions or car ride conversations deep and rich with your kids. But these small practices can build a culture and tradition of more transparent sharing in your family.
What practices and traditions have you found to be helpful in creating spaces for conversation with your family?
It is not difficult to look at our families and see the influence of technology on our identities at all ages: toddlers asking Alexa to play Baby Shark, the viral influence of the bottle flip challenge, teenagers with Instagram selfies, the virtual note-passing world of Snapchat, and parents sharing their child’s first and everything on Facebook.
Technology offers us beautiful ways to be connected, to make life simpler, and to grow in knowledge. However, families need to be engaging in conversations about how identity is often silently being shaped by technology.
Andy Crouch, in his book Tech Wise, articulated these words,
“Technology in its proper place helps us bond with the real people we have been given to love. It’s out of its proper place when we end up bonding with people at a distance.”
True identity grows in an environment built on trust, respect, and love where your behavior, words, and emotions can be shared with others face-to-face. Technology’s broad assortment of communities can deceive us into feeling known and lead us away from authentic relationships toward loneliness, isolation, and a loss of self.
Take time this month to pay attention to your family’s interaction with technology and how you are engaging with the growing smorgasbord of options in your home, on the road, or in your hand. Watch each other to discover how technology is being a positive or negative identity influence.
Is it helping with eating healthy, monitoring exercise, keeping you punctual, and encouraging learning? Or is it creating a disconnect in family relationships or promoting a lack of eye contact and respect and an increase in laziness?
Cultivate a culture in your home of regular unplugging from technology to turn away from the noise of society and the words of strangers to focus on the source of our true and everlasting identity.
God, you are…
Remember God’s character by creating a list of words from the Bible that describe Him.
God, I am…
We are image bearers of God. How do you see God’s image growing in each other’s lives?
God, we will…
Pray for God’s guidance to see where your identity in Him has been shaken. Ask Him to reveal a course to correct it.
Sundays were my favorite as a kid because it meant lunch at my grandparents’ farm after church. When we arrived, everyone pitched in to set the table and finish prepping the food.
I loved visiting my grandparents’ home because they lived on a farm, and there was always something to be done. I wanted our time at Grandma and Grandpa’s to last as long as possible, so after lunch, I would search for a way to help my grandparents.
In the house, I would quietly sneak back to the bedrooms to strip the beds and remake them with clean linens. I would clean the shower in the master bedroom, knowing it was hard for my grandparents to do. I would start doing their laundry and press my grandpa’s jeans. Yes, he loved pressed jeans for work. I would head out to the chicken coop to clean and put down fresh straw, or hike out to the pasture to dig up the thistles that frustrated grandpa. The best part of Sunday was going in search of a way to surprise my grandparents with an act of service to make them smile.
Sundays were like a day of playing Hide and Seek around my grandparents’ farm, where there were hundreds of hidden ways to serve them as an act of kindness and generosity. Serving my grandparents cultivated in me, at a young age, a behavior of seeking to serve and help others.
Seeing the smile on my grandma’s face at her freshly made bed or my grandpa’s pat on the back of thanks for ironing his jeans gave me a deep sense of joy! An unstoppable joy, which I have continued to cultivate in my lifetime and now see being passed down to my daughters.
The beauty of serving others is developing a sensitivity to the needs of another person. Cultivating this in our children means we must model attentive posturing of the heart towards others. We must use our eyes to see and ears to hear ways we can serve. It’s leading our kids to play the biggest game of Hide and Seek, where winning is discovering ways to serve another.
When we play Hide and Seek, we hide so others can’t discover us. The same is true when we genuinely need help. We can be so embarrassed or ashamed of our need that we hide it from others. In order to seek out how we can serve others, we need God’s wisdom. Engage your family in conversation around these questions.
- Let’s celebrate the many ways God can use us to serve others. Take turns as a family, going around in a circle, sharing ways God can use you to serve others. Keep going until you run out of ideas: prepare a meal, walk someone’s dog, mow a lawn, make a bed, write a card, weed a garden, etc.
- God says when we “seek first His Kingdom and His Righteousness…all these things will be given unto you as well.” What are “all these things” that will be given to you?
- Share about a time you discovered a way to serve someone else, and how it made you feel.
- Start at home. Pray for God to use your family, then send everyone in the family on a Hide and Seek hunt to discover a way they could serve in your home. Challenge them to think about how they can serve extended family members, neighbors, friends, and strangers.
In the coming weeks many of our students will be returning to school. Some will return to the schools they were in last year, while others are starting afresh on a new campus, or in a new building with new teachers and new classmates.
No doubt some of them are finding this season to be fraught with difficulty, while others may be elated by the chance to reconnect with old friends, or make new friends. Regardless of where they are on the emotional spectrum, we wanted to share this prayer of blessing as they continue on in their calling as students in this season of life.
Whether you have kids or not, we invite you to pray this prayer over all of our students.
Father in heaven, the start of every school year brings with it a mix of emotions. With so many changes that can be both overwhelmingly joyful and unbearably sorrowful, we pray that you would be found to be the unchanging God who remains constant in a world of ever changing variables.
Lord, as our students enter their schools may they know that you are already there and that you have gone before them. If they go to chemistry class, behold you are there. As they ride the school bus, you are also there. When they enter the locker room, indeed you are there.
But may they not simply be aware of your presence in their lives. May they also see your glory and your hand at work in the subjects that they study. May they see your beauty in their art classes. May they see the glory of your creation in biology. May they see your providential hand in world history. May they see your creative brilliance in mathematics.
And in all of this, may they see your great love as they grow in the knowledge of you and your world.
We pray that this year would be a year of relational, intellectual, moral, cultural, and spiritual renewal for our students and for those that they come in contact with. May they come to see the beauty and truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ that tells of the good news that we have not just been saved from something, but that we have been saved for something. May they live as your “sent ones” in the world as they display your goodness, proclaim your truth, and live out your mission.
Oh Lord, may this year be used by you to equip our students to more faithfully and fruitfully love and serve others for the common good of all and to the glory of your name.
We pray this in the name of Christ and for his glory.
In honor of International Bereaved Mother’s Day, we share this prayer to acknowledge the mother whose child cannot be seen—who lives in her heart and not in her arms and reigns in eternity with Jesus Christ.
We must remember, when a baby is conceived, a mother is born. With this prayer, we lift up the women who have children who no longer live among us on this earth. We long for a place with no more death, no more pain, no more tears, and no more suffering. That’s what Jesus promises, and that is why we put all our hope in Him. May our Lord plant visions of what heaven will be like in all of our minds.
May this day be for bereaved mothers to speak honestly, remember, celebrate, and heal.
Prayer for the Bereaved Mother
Lord our Creator, You are relentless with your love and unending grace. No one understands our pain better than You, God. You willingly chose to give Your son, Jesus Christ, away. Thank You.
Thank You for entrusting Your children with us. Even in death, You are so good. You never turn Your back on us. Even when we feel abandoned, we are not. Jesus paid the price of abandonment on the cross when He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Lord, You turn our tears into laughter—this is Your promise. We long for Your return. As we wait, our hearts overflow with gratitude:
for the beauty of conception . . .
for Your creation of family. . .
for Your love of all of Your children . . .
for the children You have entrusted and loaned to us to parent . . .
for science, medicine, and physicians . . .
for funeral directors . . .
for counselors, pastors, and support groups . . .
for refinement, growth, peace, and healing . . .
for all these reasons and so much more, we give You praise.
Thank You, good and gracious Man of Sorrows, for teaching us how to love, suffer well, mourn, and rejoice. As we honor the bereaved mother, we yearn for Jesus’ return, for the day in which there will be no more sorrow, pain, infertility, life-changing diagnoses, pregnancy termination, or death.
Today we remember in prayer:
the bereaved mother . . .
those who have terminated a pregnancy. . .
those who are longing for a child . . .
those who have experienced adoption loss . .
those who struggle with fertility . . .
those who have experienced pregnancy loss . . . including miscarriage and stillbirth . . .
those who have had a child die in infancy. . .
those who have had a child die in childhood. . .
those who have had a child die in adulthood. . .
We offer these prayers in the name Jesus Christ, our source of hope. Amen.
Amy Balentine is a daughter of the King, wife to Adam and mother to five children. Three children are in her care while two reign in Glory. Amy had two sons die in 2014: Simon who lived one breathing week and Thomas who lived until 13 weeks gestation. The Lord gave her a ministry called You Made Me Mom, which is a Kansas City-based support group that serves mothers who have lost babies during pregnancy or infancy through one year of breathing life. The support group gathers once a month in Amy’s home where she shares the message that God is good even when a baby dies.
My daughter just turned nine a few weeks ago, and it’s really been weighing on me in a hard way. I can’t stop thinking about the fact that in nine more years, she very well could be moving out of our home and into the next stage of her life.
I too often feel the pressure to produce character in her. Adam and I have desires for our kids and we want them to grow up becoming the kind of people we imagined they’d be…respectful, loving, thankful, kind, honest adults. We find ourselves modeling, implementing incentives, reading and following lots of advice. Can you relate?
Too often I make their character, faith, hope for the future all about me…not them. But, we are not in control. The Bible states in Philippians 1:6, 9–11:
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ… And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
As is stated clearly, God is the one who begins the good work within our kids. Not us. Also, God will continue to work in their lives, and no matter what, He will not give up on them but continue to see His work uncovered until the day Christ returns.
God wants our hope secured in HIM, not in ourselves. He wants us to trust Him with the kids He has given to us. Allowing these words to resonate in my life brings me great hope and puts my anxiety, fear, and worry away.
But I’m also reminded that this doesn’t mean my efforts are unimportant. I will continue modeling the things I’m saying to them. I’m sure we’ve all learned what you do carries far more influence that what you say. Adam and I will continue strengthening and doing all we can to keep our family healthy. I’m also continually needing to step back and ensure I’m not controlling the situation. Control never creates healthy relationships, but rather compliance or rebellion.
Picturing our daughter’s journey, we want to teach her to embrace her story and to acknowledge God’s presence woven throughout it. We want to pray for her to trust and believe that all circumstances, all joys, and all pains are part of The Big God Story, as well as the story our big God has mapped out for her. God makes no mistakes or missed steps; He sees everything, equips us, guides us, and builds us for the story He has prepared just for us.
When we embrace the truth that God is in control, we relinquish the heart of our child into the hands of our all-loving and powerful God. When we remember His sovereignty, we stop wanting to compose our child’s story, and we become grateful God never gave us the pen.