When Everything Falls Apart | The Struggle and Journey of Infertility

When Everything Falls Apart | The Struggle and Journey of Infertility

When Everything Falls Apart | The Struggle and Journey of Infertility

For a hopeful couple, some of the hardest words to hear are “You can’t have a baby.”

In a moment, the future they’d hoped for of raising a family of their own flesh and blood dissolves. The possibility that comes along with not knowing is ripped from their hands.

And it hurts.

This news becomes a loss that must be grieved. And, as with any grieving process, this will look different for each individual and each couple.

I had a chance to ask Renee Umeda, one of the leaders for As We Wait, Mission Hills Church’s infertility support group, about infertility and how we as a whole can come together and support families journeying through infertility.

The first thing we wanted to stress is that infertility does not change a person’s identity in Christ. If you are going through this, you are no less of a woman/wife/man/husband because of infertility. You are not broken. You have not let anyone down. You are a child of God and he is in this journey with you. However, this truth can be difficult to hold on to in the midst of the struggle. I urge you to not believe the lies that say you are anything other than a beautifully and wonderfully made child of God.

If you are going through infertility, it is easy to feel shame and feel isolated. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help or to talk about your pain to safe people. You are not alone.

How can I support my spouse through this?

As you go through this, try to remember your spouse also lost the possibility and is also grieving. Renee said, “One of the best ways to support your spouse is regular communication. Each spouse deals with this struggle differently so it is important to understand where your spouse is coming from in their own process. Try to let go of your expectations of them and give them lots of grace. Allow them time to ‘not be okay’ and not have it all together. [Much] of infertility is unfortunately grieved silently but make sure you grieve alongside your spouse in the best way you can.” She also suggested that it may help to find another couple going through a similar struggle, as it can be helpful to “find someone else that ‘gets it.’ You feel alone in the journey, but there are many people who understand and would love to support you and your spouse.”

How can the church support couples going through infertility?

Acknowledging the difficulty can go a long way in serving couples. Infertility is a struggle and a lot of healing can happen by creating a space where it’s okay to be honest about how hard it is. “Some of the hardest times at church for a couple going through infertility are the Mother’s Day service and baby dedications,” Renee said. It would also be helpful to learn which phrases make the journey more difficult, phrases such as “you are still young,” “just adopt,” “you just need to relax,” or “it will happen once you stop trying.” These phrases can trigger pain for couples. Rather than offering a fix for their struggle, it’s often more helpful to be a listening ear and say something like, “I can’t imagine what you’re going through. I’m here for you and praying.”

As Renee put it, “Infertility is a process and each couple has to come to terms with how and when God is choosing to build their family.” Every journey will be unique. If you haven’t gone through infertility yourself, your attempts to help may not be what the person you’re trying to help needs. The first step of love is listening.

If you’re struggling through infertility, we want to listen to you. Please reach out to us to learn how you can get connected to our support group, As We Wait, led by Renee Umeda and Kelsey Brooks.

AS WE WAIT

National Infertility Awareness Week happens every April and Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month is October. These are national opportunities to help spread awareness and love to those going through infertility, but the work of spreading awareness and love is not only limited to those times.

The Struggles and Blessings of Adoption

The Struggles and Blessings of Adoption

THE STRUGGLES AND BLESSINGS OF ADOPTION

Family is one of the most important parts of a person’s life. There are nuclear families, extended families, close families, and distant families. And then there are the members of our family who aren’t related to us by blood at all—close friends, parent’s friends, and the people we share life with on a regular basis.

Those friends have been adopted into our lives, grafted into our perspective of family.

For some of us, the nuclear family we grew up with or the family we’re growing for ourselves involves adoption.

For some, adoption has always been part of how they anticipated growing their family. For others, it comes about as an alternative to biological children.

I had the chance to ask Coletta Smith and a few members of our Adoption Group, Jessica Nutting and Alicia Osborne, about adoption and how that process can go.

There are a lot of legal hoops to jump through when a family is trying to adopt, and there are a few conversations families should have with each other when thinking about adoption.

“Just like any other life-altering decision, adoption should be pursued after research, serious prayer and maybe even after receiving godly wisdom from someone you trust who is strong in their faith,” Alicia said. “If you are married, both of you should be in agreement. But once you know that you know that you know you are supposed to adopt…GO FOR IT!”

Adoption is a beautiful image of the love God has for us. Over and over throughout scripture, we’re told that we are adopted sons and daughters of God (John 12:1, Galatians 4:4-7, Romans 8:14-17, Ephesians 1:5). If God has called you to adopt children into your family, take the encouragement that God will be with you in the process and in the welcoming of another person into your family.

However, given the intensity of the process, Alicia suggests some ways that the church can come alongside families as they both jump through the legal hoops and even after the child has been home for a few years.

“Families need support,” Alicia said. “They need prayer and a judgement free listener who won’t offer solutions because what works with some kids might not work with all kids, especially kids from hard places who have complex developmental trauma. They need connection with other families who look like them and have similar experiences as them—they need community. They also need practical support. For example, a dinner when things are hard, a qualified respite provider, or just a patient babysitter for the evening so they can have an evening out with their spouse.”

 

“Get others around you who either have run this marathon before or who are just great cheerleaders along the way,” Jessica added. “Make playlists of encouraging music. Let yourself dream. Let yourself cry. Give yourself rewards for each milestone you reach (classes completed, etc.). And invest in your current relationships.”

Lastly, Alicia pointed out that no two kids are the same or respond in the same way. What works for one may not work for another. Plus, there’s no way to know what kind of trauma the kid may or may not have experienced.

“Children who were adopted at birth can have significant trauma,” Alicia said. “And there are kids who were adopted as older children who are very resilient and well adapted. Don’t assume that an infant adoption equals a child with no loss or trauma.”

Whether you’re thinking about adopting, in the process of adopting, or have adopted and just want support, we’d love to connect with you. We have an Adoption Meet + Greet this coming weekend and we would love to connect with you!

 

ADOPTION MEET + GREET

Colorado Christmas Adventure Story

Colorado Christmas Adventure Story

COLORADO CHRISTMAS ADVENTURE

The Colorado Christmas Adventure unfolds around our little band of cottage mates. A family bound together by circumstance, these six kids have been removed from unsafe homes. Candy canes, Christmas lights, gingerbread houses and nativity scenes surround along with smiles, giggles and joyfulness from the kids. They are a family; we are all family here.

Bringing two of my worlds together, my church home and my work at the Tennyson Center for Children, makes my heart full. Mission Hills is not small. I remember walking into the 116,000 square ft. mega-church seven years ago. At the time, Kelly and I were seeking. After ten years of adversity, war, death, separation and loss, our family was cracking at the seams and we needed something. We didn’t know that we needed someone, but we found Him.

I was shocked when I was warmly welcomed at this church, a place that (as a Jew) I had felt I was not welcomed. But I was. There waiting for us was a warm embrace. Loving people, a caring environment and Jesus, waiting right there for us to stop running from. Giving our lives to Christ changed everything. I would shortly thereafter leave my corporate job, take a 60% pay cut and begin the journey of serving where I felt the Lord called me, caring for veterans, service members, military families and abused children.

Every one of those populations, I count myself a member of.

Today at Mission Hills, the environment is overwhelming, but it is warm and welcoming as usual. The sanctuary my family calls home.

I can see the wide eyes of our Tennyson children. They devour plates full of food truck chicken and waffles, weave through glowing gingerbread houses and warm themselves at the fire pit that hundreds of children (including my own) find respite from the cold at every week at Youth. They are kids, after all, just like any other.

We are deliberate to hold the space for our kiddos. I walk slowly through the crowds, speak softly and keep a flat affect. Our clinicians and care team at Tennyson have ingrained this in our organizational culture. Two of our Youth Treatment Counselors coolly handle little outbursts, correct behaviours and ensure that the kids are safe.

The lights sparkle in “Who Ville” as we arrive in line for face painting. Overlooking the sprawl of south metro Denver, a moment unfolds.

And I lean in.

Emma points and is explaining to the others. “Over there, see the Taco Bell?” I strain to identify the store, but cannot locate it. “Look, next to the bank. See the bell?” With perfect vision, there is no way such a restaurant is identifiable from this distance and through the clutter of buildings. Her statement is rooted in knowing. Experience. She has been here before.

“Are you from here?” I manage.

“My dad used to lock me out of the house and tell me to go get food there,” she casually states. “I used to go to school up the street.

Her affect begins to change. Her discomfort is perceptible. She stares at a girl further up in line and holds on to her cottage mate; her community for support.

“I recognize her from school,” she manages, “I hate girls.”

“Are you feeling ok, Emma?” I ask calmly.

“I get anxiety…I just hate girls.”

She holds her place. Her community anchoring her to the ground while emotions undoubtedly swirl within her. “We are all so glad you’re here with us, Emma,” I smile.

Inside my heart shatters. She was right here the whole time. Suffering in our own community and nobody saw her. Not until it was too late and her family was torn apart. Like 4,500 children in Colorado, Emma is now living in an out of home placement. She lives at Tennyson and is learning how to heal and set her sights on a new life, a new future. Emma is courageous at thirteen.

It took her being exported to Denver from an unsafe home in Douglas County to be seen and then welcomed back to her own community in Highlands Ranch.

We stand with her.

She is invited to face painting by one of my fellow Mission Hills congregants. The volunteer listens warmly as Emma hopes to have matching Christmas monkeys painted with her cottage mate. A monkey is not one of the four options that hundreds of kids are able to choose from. Nevertheless, I am proud as one of my church family members leans in to show care for the girl.

What if we all leaned in like this? No questions asked.

What if we saw moms and dads struggling to overcome their own generational trauma and supported them as they learned to heal themselves? Learned to stabilize their homes and learned to reintegrate fully? What if we never let them fall from the beginning and held them up with the support and treatment they needed?

“What if” is happening today. Right in front of me. And in churches all over our community.

We are proud to lead an effort that reaches into the margins of every one of our communities, one child and family at a time. This is the very heart of our new partnership with Douglas County Department of Health and Human Services (DHS). The very heart of partnerships with churches like Mission Hills and the Disciples of Christ congregations that have stood with us for over a century. With Boys and Girls Clubs, The Boy Scouts, Foster Power Youth and others that anchor supports and welcome kids into community.

At its core, these partnerships will enable us to see what is right amidst all of our communities: hurting kids and crumbling families that need us all to lean in, care and through treatment allow the hurt to give way for the healing.
Back at the face painting station, a monkey image is found online and before we know it, Emma has a Christmas chimp holding a candy cane on her face. Another is drawn on her friend. Emma smiles. She floats out of the church with a gift bag in one hand, her cottage sister in the other.

Taco Bell fades away as this child remembers what it’s like to be a kid again. Ahead of her lies a healing journey that will last lifetime, but she will never walk alone again. Together, with the Tennyson Center for Children, Mission Hills Church, Douglas DHS and a community of supporters, we are committed to seeing her change the world with all the bravery and heart that she walks with.

Brandon Young is the Chief Advancement Officer at the Tennyson Center for Children

Fall Giving

Fall Giving

Fall Giving

Thanksgiving is a time when we are reminded of all the ways we’ve been blessed. Sometimes we go back and look at the blessings we’ve taken for granted for a long time and realize the weight of them — the ability to read, a device to read this post on, internet so this post can exist. When we start to look at the world through the lens of “what have I taken for granted?” we can see things in our lives that we wouldn’t notice before.

Likely, you’re reading this in a comfortable room, wearing clothes you picked out at a store, maybe enjoying a snack or a warm drink.

How often do we take those things for granted? How often do we forget to thank God for the ways he’s blessed us in our day to day life?

Let’s change that and take a moment to acknowledge the ways we’ve been blessed and think of a few ways we can bless others because of it.

Here are some places to start:
  • Do I have clothes in my closet? Do I have extra clothes I don’t ever wear? Where can I donate those clothes to bless others this year?
  • Do I have plans to gather family together for Thanksgiving dinner? Do I know anyone who doesn’t have plans or family in the area? Can I invite them to join my family this year?
  • Are there cans of food I have in my cupboard that I’m never going to eat? Do I have extra food? Can I find a place to donate to a food bank this year?

You can bring your whole family into this mentality.

Ask your kids:
  • Are there any toys you don’t play with anymore? Would you like to bless someone else with a toy this year? Which toy, and who can we give it to?

You may find that your kids have a ton of extra clothes they don’t wear all the time or don’t like. Let them help you bring their extra clothes to donate.

We often think of getting rid of what we don’t need any more in the spring for spring cleaning, but what if we added in a second time, when people are more in need than the rest of the year as winter draws near, and created a “Fall Giving?”

Start by looking for the things you take for granted, thank God for them, and then look into options to share how you’ve been blessed or help others, who don’t have what you take for granted, get access to or have the things you depend on.

We wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving! If you’d like to learn more about how you can help out directly in the Littleton community on a regular basis, you’re welcome to volunteer at the Life Center and help others get what you take for granted.

Want even more ways to get involved? Check out what we’re doing for our Food Drive and Christmas Toy Drive. We look forward to serving with you!

2 Steps For Starting a Gratitude List

2 Steps For Starting a Gratitude List

2 Steps For Starting a Gratitude List

It’s November, the month best known as “Time to do the Christmas shopping” and “Oh wait, I need to remember how to cook a turkey.”

By the time Thanksgiving rolls around and you’re asking your family what they’re grateful for, it can be difficult to think of anything. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Especially if you start early on in the month, you have a chance to start shifting your mindset so when it comes time to say something you’re thankful for, you’ll be able to pick one of many rather than scrambling for one.

What’s a simple way to do this?

1 | Pick a friend (or a journal).

2 | Tell your friend (or write in your journal) three things you’re grateful for every day.

This will be difficult at first, since we often live in a mindset that focuses on how things went wrong, rather than how things went right. But by practicing with our friends or our journal, we can easily turn this into a prayer of thanksgiving every day.

When you start looking for things to be thankful for rather than things to be angry about, you’ll start to see them in your day to day life. You can be grateful for all sorts of things — coffee, health, a car, and a job come to mind right now, and that’s off the top of my head.

You can do it, too. And of the above options, I suggest a friend over a journal, or maybe do both. The reason it can be helpful to tell a friend is that you’ll have someone asking you what you’re grateful for today. A journal can’t talk to you, but a person can. A person can remind you of your goals and why you started doing this in the first place. Even more than that, though, a person can celebrate with you and be thankful with you. That community is priceless.

Jesus’ Coolest Miracles

Jesus’ Coolest Miracles

Jesus' Coolest Miracles

We live in a world where some of the most popular stories are those of superheroes and people with crazy powers. As humans, we love to be amazed and intrigued. That’s why we watch movies such as Superman or Avengers. It’s why magic shows have been around as long as they have, showcasing illusionists and why, when it’s all said and done, you don’t really want to know how the magician pulled a rabbit out of his hat.

Jesus’ ministry was full of really cool things like those. Some of the stories of what he did are things we’d expect to see from superheroes in fiction, designed to amaze and entertain.

But not only were Jesus’ miracles actual miracles – as in, he actually healed the blind and sick (John 9), actually drove out demons (Matthew 8), and actually turned plain well water into really impressive wine (John 2) – these stories aren’t fiction.

Jesus’ miracles aren’t illusions or magic tricks, and they really happened.

For shortened versions of the stories where we learn of his miracles, we can look at the Gospel of Mark.

That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. | Mark 1:32-34

In three short verses Mark describes how Jesus healed “many who had various diseases” after “the whole town gathered at the door.” Now, we don’t know how big the town was, but to have an entire town gather at one door means there was a large crowd, and they all wanted to know if what Jesus had done for one woman, healing, could be done for all of them.

Spoiler alert: it could be done for them, and it was.

Another time when Jesus did the seemingly impossible is when he calmed the storm.

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him,

“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” | Mark 4:37-41

It’s interesting that after Jesus does what the disciples asked him to, he asks them, “Why are you so afraid?” And even after he’s asked this, they feel inclined to ask each other, “Who is this?” because they were terrified. God’s power can be scary at times, because we often don’t know how to comprehend it. We know it would be nice if the scary thing, the wind and waves, could just up and disappear, but we haven’t thought about what would happen if that did actually happen. Not only can it actually happen, but the display of power on God’s part often leads us, in our mortality, to be scared, or more aptly, terrified. But Jesus’s next question is possibly more important: “Do you still have no faith?”

At this point, he has essentially revealed who he was. He has given them ample reason, ample proof, for them to have faith in him. Yet they still don’t see it.

Let’s not be like them, at least not in this instance.

One of the most important miracles Jesus did, however, even more important than healing the sick and calming the waves, was his resurrection after the cross. Mark doesn’t continue the story as long as Matthew, Luke, and John, but he does include the vital verses that describe the empty tomb and the message from the angels.

As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” | Mark 16:5-7

This miracle is the most important miracle, because Jesus’ death and resurrection secured our salvation from the death we chose in the Garden of Eden. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Read about it in Genesis Chapters 1-3.)

John summed up the main point nicely in John 3:16:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

It’s easy to want Jesus’ miracles to have happened. It’s also easy to write those miracles off as illusions or tricks. But writing them off says we don’t believe Jesus either A. tells the truth or B. is actually capable of doing what we read he did.

What we believe about his miracles directly ties into what we believe about the resurrection, and our belief about that is of eternal importance.

If you have questions about what you’ve just read, I suggest going back to the source. Take a moment to read through the Gospel of Mark, and then reach out to us. We’d love to connect with you and help you wrestle through whatever questions you may have. Send us an email so we can help you get connected to people who can help you dig deeper into the Gospel.