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

Lessons I’ve Learned as a Mom of Boys

Lessons I’ve Learned as a Mom of Boys

LESSONS I'VE LEARNED AS A MOM OF BOYS

If you are the parent of boys, you probably are being faced with challenges unlike any other experience in life. Raising boys is a one-of-a-kind experience. As we understand what makes this calling unique, we begin to see (and enjoy) the way God innately created our sons. Here are some of the lessons I have learned as a mom of boys.

1 | Boys Spit!

For no other reason than because they can. It is some kind of right of passage. You can’t really control it, but you can direct it. Spitting is forbidden anywhere someone might be walking. This, of course, brought on a whole new debate, but at least people weren’t dodging our boys’ spit.

2 | Snowballs are for Throwing

If there is snow falling, snowballs will be flying and so is anything else boys can find to use as a projectile object. It is part of boys’ brains, taking objects and propelling them somehow through the air. I couldn’t stop the throwing of snowballs by my husband or our sons, but I could minimize the damage by limiting the target. “When throwing snowballs at your sister aim below the head.”

3 | At least ask if they are okay before you start to laugh out loud

Males’ level of sympathy and empathy is a bit different than that of girls. Where girls first instinct is to run over to a friend who has fallen or hit in sensitive areas of the body to see if they are okay, boys first instinct is to cringe first and then laugh hysterically. There is no age limit to this reaction and apparently, this reaction never gets old.

4 | Twenty-five words or less and make most of them verbs

Males are doers. They think in verbs. They think in motion. Females think in nouns. They think in detail and description. Let’s face it ladies, we talk too much and think we can solve all problems and situations with words. We can’t. Actually, males (of all ages) tune out about word five. So do yourself a favor; make your words count, use as few as possible and brush up on your verbs.

5 | Silence is Golden

Words can be overrated to boys. Monday through Friday, your son has spent the equivalent of a full time job sitting in a classroom. Try not to ask about his day or how he is doing unless he speaks first. Give him time to process his day and decompress by playing, eating, hanging out with friends, or limited screen time. Later, ask about his day with a well thought out question over dinner, shooting

6 | Is it Wrong or Just Different?

When your boys choose to complete a task differently than you would complete it, before you tell him it is wrong, pause, take a deep breathe and ask yourself if it is wrong or is it just different than you would do it? Mom’s way is not always the right way or the only way.

7 | Get in Touch with your “Boys” Lens

Mark Twain once said, “I never let schooling interfere with my education.” Boys are naturally curious and even though it might be a bit scary to watch them in action, try not to jump in immediately. Observe, take note and don’t assume you know what they are thinking. There is more to exploring and learning than what is being taught in classrooms.

8 | If All Else Fails, Read Calvin and Hobbes

For years, our son Luke would only read Calvin and Hobbes. His teachers would constantly try and get him to expand his horizons to no avail. What I learned from Calvin and Hobbes was through wit, wisdom, and humor there was a whole lot of reality concerning “Boy World”. Looking at this mystical world through the eyes of a six year old boy and his stuffed tiger/imaginary friend gives more insight than you realize and it will make you smile. We still have every volume of Calvin and Hobbes. The content is timeless and who knows, you just might learn something about boys.

If you are the parent of boys, you probably are being faced with challenges unlike any other experience in life. Raising boys is a one-of-a-kind experience. As we understand what makes this calling unique, we begin to see (and enjoy) the way God innately created our sons. Here are some of the lessons I have learned as a mom of boys.

The Good Samaritan, Prejudice, and Parenting

The Good Samaritan, Prejudice, and Parenting

THE GOOD SAMARITAN, PREJUDICE, AND PARENTING

The term “good Samaritan” is a common expression in our culture, meaning someone who exhibits surprising kindness towards a stranger. The term itself originates from Jesus’ parable in Luke 10 where a Samaritan man did just that when he saw a man in need on the side of the road. Even in our increasingly secular culture, we’ve named laws after this character. To Jesus’ original audience though, the terms “good” and “Samaritan” weren’t paired together so readily.

To the original hearers of this parable, a Samaritan hero was a shock. Samaritans weren’t true followers of God, like the priest or the Levite who passed over the injured man on the road. Ethnic differences separated Samaritans and Jews, creating hostility and prejudice. Prejudice quickly grew into an “us vs them” mentality. In response, Jesus made sure his audience knew that these differences weren’t excuses to permit unkindness. ‘Neighbor’ became a verb as Jesus told them to emulate the behavior of the one they had looked down on an “otherized.”

In our current age that increasingly “otherizes” groups different than themselves—Republicans, Democrats, Muslims, people of color, immigrants, or homosexuals—Jesus reminds us that the person who you consider least like yourself, he or she is your neighbor to be loved in the same way you’d want to be loved.

If you’re a parent, you’re teaching the next generation how to view and how to treat others. As much as you might like to avoid the difficult topics of racism and prejudice, they won’t go away if we choose not to talk about them. Prepare for an honest conversation with your kids by first processing through these questions honestly. The questions below were originally featured on Parent Cue, a division of Orange which creates resources our kids ministry utilizes.

1 // HOW ARE YOU PROCESSING YOUR FEELINGS?

In order to have honest conversations with our kids, we need to be honest with ourselves. Check your heart and your thoughts. Be sure to take a step back and identify how you might need to change in your prejudices and in your interactions with others. Reflect on what it really means to love those whom God loves, and unrelentingly pursue forgiveness and reconciliation. Your kids will get many of their cues from observing your response. Yes, they’re really watching and listening. Are your reactions and frustrations to what is happening to betray any subtle biases?

2 // DO YOU CELEBRATE DIVERSITY?

Some parents may be tempted to try to teach their kids to be blind to color, to shy away from acknowledging differences or just ignore them altogether. But the truth is that we are all very different in the way God made us—in our skin color, in our genetic makeup, and in our culture. And that’s something to be celebrated, not ignored. Do you model the belief with your words and actions that God made each of us unique and beautiful even in our differences? Do you demonstrate respect and honor towards those you disagree with? How diverse is your circle of friends and the people you associate with? How can you widen that circle for your family?

3 // ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT RACISM?

Racism is a difficult and sensitive topic, but it does exist, often in the form of subtle comments and prejudice, but sometimes it’s outright hatred and violence. Not talking about it doesn’t make it go away. So talk about the issues with others outside your circle and with people of different backgrounds. Discover the truth from various outlets and seek to understand other perspectives. When you find the right words that honestly and respectfully express how you think and feel, choose which words you might share with your kids.

Then talk to your kids about prejudice and racism so you can equip them with the values and the words they will need to respect, celebrate, and stand up for those who are being discriminated against.

4 // ARE YOU FOCUSED ON LOVE?

As parents, our hearts break in the shadow of these tragic events, and our anxiety, anger, and fear, unfortunately, leak out onto our kids. It’s okay, to be honest with your kids, but it’s important to talk to them about how your family can respond to what’s happening in our world in a positive way.

As you navigate these important conversations, focus on what matters most: LOVE. Put love into action, and rest in the hope that is found there. And dole out love in especially large doses on your kids so they feel safe and secure. Hug them tightly and let them know that God is with them and they don’t have to be afraid. And neither do you.

For help with age appropriate conversations addressing recent events, check out this article: How to Talk to Your Kids About Racism: An Age-by-Age Guide.

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How to Make Sports Camp Last

How to Make Sports Camp Last

HOW TO MAKE SPORTS CAMP LAST

What parent has not received their son or daughter back from an experience like camp, only to say a week later, “Gee, my kid seemed so excited and transformed when he first came home. But now, it’s like he never went at all! Isn’t there some way to make camp last?”

At Mission Hills Church, we believe the only Sports Camp worth putting on is the kind that produces lasting results long past the days your child is in our care.

To ensure this happens, we constantly remind ourselves that no one on the MHC Kid’s Ministry staff is your child’s head coach––you are!  As the coach, you are the ones responsible for seeing that the momentum of Sports Camp continues in your home.  Sure, we just hosted a safe, exciting, educational, healthily competitive, spiritually-challenging camp for nearly 800 kids, but we’re only the assistant coaches.  You’re in charge now!  So, say these words out loud right now as you read them––“I am my child’s head coach!  And I can keep the ball rolling!”

HOW TO MAINTAIN MOMENTUM

Even so, there’s not a coach on the planet who doesn’t need a little continued education.  That said, the following three principles should help you and your child get the most out of Mission Hills Sports Camp.

Principle #1:  “Make it fun!”   Remember, your son or daughter has just spent four days immersed in high-energy activities.  If they return to an environment that resembles a library, they’re probably going to go through major withdrawals.  On the other hand, if you’re willing to spice things up with games, songs, riddles, puzzles, and competitions, (especially at the dinner table), then Sports Camp could last you all the way to September, when school begins.  Two good resources for improving the fun-factor in your home are: “Playing for Keeps”, by Reggie Joiner, and anything by Karl Rohnke, the guru of creative games.

Principle #2:  “Make it fit!”   As many people know, we’re sold on the “Orange Strategy” for kids’ ministry at MHC.  This blending of the “light of the church” with the “love of home” is a perfect way for us to build a bridge between these two vital institutions.  Part of the Orange Strategy involves understanding the “phase” that accompanies each age group that we minister to.  At our recent Sports Camp, four of those phases were represented.  If you truly want Sports Camp to last, and your efforts to fit the specific needs of your child, you can become a student of the phase that fits your child.  The four phases represented at this year’s Sports Camp are as follows:

 Kindergarten and First Grade

This is the, “Look at me!” phase, where all of life becomes a stage for your child.  During this phase, your child has just begun to attend school, which means he or she now has to share undivided attention with as many as thirty other children.  To insure the results of Sports Camp continue, devote yourself to noticing your child a LOT!  It’s the most important thing you can do in this phase.  Remember, we’ve been praising your child for every basket, goal, pass, and handspring for the better part of a week.  So, you’ll want to make sure you continue this pattern of paying attention and praising your child.

Second and Third Grade

This is the, “Sounds like fun!” phase, where your child is still excited about the things you’re excited about.  Interestingly, studies show that fairness matters almost more than anything during this phase.  So, if you’re playing a game at the dinner table, make sure all the rules apply equally to every family member––or you may see all that Sports Camp transformation flying right out the window in the course of one short meal.  Making it “fit” with this age group really means making it “fair.”

 Fourth and Fifth Grade

This is the, “I’ve got this!” phase, where you will see your child become super-interested in belonging to some tribe, team, club, or clique.   Peer approval will mean the world to them, and peer disapproval will crush them.  So brace yourself––because your opinion is suddenly going to mean a whole lot less to your child.  Fortunately, kids in this phase will still long to show you how smart, fast and strong they are.  This means you can turn anything into a fun competition, and it will fit the “I’ve got this!” phase.  Literally… anything!

Principle #3:  “Make it forever!”  Jesus once said, “A slave can’t exceed his master,” and what He was really getting at was that we can’t expect our kids to be any more spiritual than we are.  Sadly, it’s the temporal things of this planet that often get our devotion.  But if you really want Sports Camp to last––particularly the spiritual aspect of it––make sure your kids see you reaching up to God for the “forever” things.

For instance:

  • What if they heard you talk more openly about your time in the Bible that morning, or the things you learned from Craig’s sermon last Sunday?
  • What if they watched you appreciating God’s creation, and listened to you praising Him for creating beautiful mountains, streams, trees, and birds?
  • What if they saw YOU begin to treat everyone around you as if he or she was a “forever” being, rather than just the man who picks up your trash, or the woman who makes your coffee drink at Starbucks?

We think that “making it forever” is the best thing you can do to keep Sports Camp alive in your home.

So… there you have it.  If you really want Sports Camp to last, it’s up to you to see that it happens.  Make it fun!  Make it fit!  Make it forever!  And most of all, remember that the church is here to assist you.

Go get ’em, Coach!

Your friend,
Will Cunningham