Last week a friend stopped by for a visit, saw my plants, and offered some advice. The need was evident. One of my succulents sits with its overgrown stalk resting on the kitchen window, like a child smooshing its face into the glass. Across the counter sits a different plant, droopy and over-watered, looking as if trying to reach something to hold on to, only to give up. She told me the size of the pots is the problem, affecting their healthy growth. One has too much room, and the other is cramped. I had no idea!
Doing research, I found on SimplifyPlants’ website that “different species of plants have different care requirements, and each of them acts differently in a particular situation.” For example, when the pot’s size is too small, the nutrients present in the soil will be absorbed quickly by the plant, and the roots may become root bound. On the other hand, if you put a plant in a pot too big, the plant will not be able to absorb appropriate nutrients. In addition, the soil may hold too much water, leading to root rot and other pest problems in the plants. So, I learned that I have to be intentional in my pot selection for each plant, giving it the appropriate soil, water, and fertilizer it requires.
Thinking about plants reminds me of how God made us uniquely in his image, planting us strategically for growth, pruning, and harvesting (Jeremiah 17:7-8). God knows when we need a smaller space for our roots to grow deep, and he knows when we are ready for a larger area of expansion. He also gives us “fertilizer” through his Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and his church, where we encourage and support one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Unfortunately, we often want to control where we are planted, our speed of growth, and the fruit we bring. Other times, we may not want to grow but remain where we are, tired and weary from the process. Its often in grief where we feel the struggle the most. When we endure suffering, we may feel we’ve been ripped from our pot and question if we’ll ever grow again. We are challenged in our faith to trust the master gardener (John 15:1-27), who we are to abide in, through all seasons of life. He is the one who causes us to grow and prunes us when needed. He gives us Jesus, our living water and nourishment, promising through him we won’t hunger or thirst again (John 4:10, 6:35)
Let’s encourage one another not to struggle out of our pots. As it is for us and those we help, God knows where we belong, even when it feels foreign, dull, or barren. Let’s remind ourselves and them to soak in the living water of Jesus and allow him to fertilize our soil. Be intentional in the community around you, supporting, encouraging, and tending to one another. And with patience and perseverance, we look forward to the Kingdom of God…
…yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches; so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR can NEST UNDER ITS SHADE. – Mark 4:32
Tanya Flores, Reproductive Loss Network
At the beginning of April, I received an email from a jewelry retailer that surprised me. The subject line immediately caught my eyes: “Rather not receive Mother’s Day emails?” I opened it to read the full text, “we understand that this time of year isn’t easy for all. If you’d rather not receive Mother’s Day emails, just let us know.” Below the paragraph was a large button labeled “OPT OUT OF MOTHER’S DAY EMAILS.”
Ten days later, the popular online graphic design portal, Canva, sent out their email, “Want to opt-out of Mother’s Day emails?” Their content included a button to “Change my preferences” alongside the message “Mother’s Day is coming up and we know it can be a difficult day for some. That’s why we’re giving you the option to opt-out of Mother’s Day emails from us.”
If the secular world recognizes and offers relief for those hurting during the Mother’s Day season, shouldn’t the church respond as well? Is Mother’s Day even biblical? Or are the women who hurt expected to gird up strength and endure a socially constructed celebration?
I understand these questions can stir up emotion, especially for church leaders. Years ago, I asked a pastor to consider canceling the church’s annual May “Mother/Daughter Tea” to have a church-wide picnic instead. Or at least rebranding the event name to “Women’s Day Tea.” The reason being is Mother’s Day can be one of the hardest days of the year, and harder still to celebrate it in church. The church is to be a place focused on glorifying God (not ourselves), being devoted to the teaching of biblical doctrine, fellowship, observing the Lord’s supper, and prayer (Acts 2:42). And sometimes its events don’t feel glorifying.
So, should hurting people endure the holiday? The statistics demonstrate the vast numbers of reproductive loss. Annually, 1 in 160 pregnancies end in stillbirth, 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, 1 out of 8 couples experience infertility, and 1 out of 4 women will have chosen abortion. Many more women and men are grieving the loss of their female family members, daughters, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and other loved ones. We also need to recognize the grief of adoption placements, prenatal diagnoses, and broken dreams of family and relationships. As I type this, I wonder if Mother’s Day feels more of a day of survival for most.
The Bible doesn’t ask us to set aside special days for mothers and fathers or anyone else. But it doesn’t condemn it either. Instead, Romans 14:5-8 lays out how every day for a believer should be observed in honor of and thankfulness to the Lord. And through our hope and salvation in Christ, we look forward to the day where “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Romans 21:4). We can take refuge in a God who comforts us and saves us from the broken world and broken bodies.
So, should we opt out of Mother’s Day? What about Father’s Day? Or, any other day that brings anniversary grief? Let’s remind ourselves that the Lord has appointed times for weeping, laughing, mourning, and dancing (Ecclesiastes 31:4). And He also promises us a living hope and unfading inheritance through Christ (1 Peter 1:3-4). As believers, we should not mourn like those who have no future, but instead, keep our heads lifted to Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13).
If you’re hurting this season, we pray for you. Whatever you choose to do to protect your heart this Mother’s Day, please don’t opt-out of Jesus; He is there. And for those who can comfort others, please reach out to the hurting and remember Christ “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).
by Tanya Flores, Reproductive Loss Network
At RLN, we encourage churches to offer care and compassion to people experiencing grief, especially those who are often overlooked, the men and women hurting after reproductive loss.
In 1998 GriefShare, a video-based support group formed by Church Initiative was released to come alongside grieving individuals within the church and community. Today, over 20,000 churches are equipped with one or more Church Initiative ministry programs (griefshare.org). We are thankful for the men and women who tirelessly serve others by leading these groups and sharing their own losses for the healing of others.
Although GriefShare does not include specifics for reproductive loss, we can most definitely learn how to grieve and support others by their materials. I have found their book, written by Robert W. Kellemen, Ph.D., “God’s Healing for Life’s Losses: How to Find Hope When You’re Hurting,” a beneficial supplement to my resources, especially when teaching a biblical grieving process.
Dr. Kellemen fills eleven chapters with robust theology and practical application to grieving well. He begins his book with the verse John 16:33:
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Kellemen explains how to live abundantly with life’s losses in the context of God’s healing. He breaks down this verse to write in beautiful detail Jesus’ words about peace and taking heart in God’s promises. There is hope in Jesus.
On page 10, Dr. Kellemen includes a very helpful guide to “Biblical Sufferology,” laying out descriptions of how we grieve internally and externally, and process through stages of hurt and stages of healing. The remainder of the book is full of explanations of each concept depicted in this guide, offering grace-filled and truthful instructions for readers who are hurting and for those who are wanting to support others well.
I love books that include homework or reflections after each chapter, and this book delivers deep questions for the reader. As I read the book, I took the time to answer the questions, and the Lord revealed deeper healing to my past hurts while lovingly displaying recent losses I haven’t yet processed. God is so good.
As a griever and helper, I encourage you to consider this book for your collection. It has served both Tricia and me well as we develop curriculum and workshops to encourage others to find rest for their hurting souls in Christ and invite others to do the same. And never forget…
Jesus is on the move. He’s speaking to you now. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). (Kellemen, p 7).
Sheila Harper, Founder of SaveOne.
Everything in me said abortion was wrong, but I charged forward with really bad advice, from even worse friends, and I went through with it anyway. March 29, 1985 was the day of my most regrettable mistake. I was nineteen years old and making decisions of life and death that I had no business making. My boyfriend broke up with me shortly after and I really don’t blame him. He begged me not to have the abortion and I selfishly did anyway. Don’t ever let anyone tell you this is just a woman’s issue. Men suffer from the aftermath of this choice as well.
For seven years after this date my life quickly became a mess. I started drinking, then consuming vast amounts of drugs. I spent all my money going to concerts and getting backstage, and signing up for credit cards and maxing them out. I suffered through a rape, and I went through relationships like water, not committing to anything or anybody. I became obsessed with death, hoping that if I took enough drugs, or drank enough alcohol I wouldn’t wake up. After an attempted suicide and being consumed with hoping to die, I met a man in a bar and cleaned myself up enough to get married.
My husband Jack, is the real hero in all of this. He loved me even as messed up as I was and lived with the drama of my life for years. We had two sons right away. My first son I have always felt was a gift from God to wake me up. That pregnancy got my attention and made me realize my life was worth living, if not for myself, then for this precious creature entrusted to me. My second son was indeed born on March 29th, the very day I had taken a life, God gave me another gift straight from Him.
Not long in to our marriage I heard about a class being offered for women who had experienced abortion and were having trouble afterward. Being in a group with others who had suffered the same experience after abortion, validated those seven years of isolation and loneliness. This Bible study I attended gave me back my life. It showed me how I needed to accept Jesus forgiveness and forgive myself. It was an incredible discovery and a much needed transformation.
God has walked me through forgiving the abusers in my life, owning my bad choices, and wiping my slate clean. He has made me a victor of my past circumstances…no longer a victim. What happened to me is not what defines me, but rather strengthens who I am today. The enemy meant all that junk for nothing but destruction in my life, but God used it all for the betterment of myself, my awesome family, and to help others through the same situations.
So there’s the real story. Without Grace I’m a mess, true and simple. With Grace life is awesome.
Please feel free to contact me by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org Or you can check out saveone.org for the same kind of help that was offered me and changed my life. Hope to hear from you soon!
You run into an old friend, and as natural as breathing, you ask how she’s doing with a smile. Then, panic strikes you as tears fill her eyes, and she struggles to tell you she’s had yet another miscarriage. Your mind goes blank. Your mouth goes dry – what do you say to show you care and not add to her pain?
Your women’s ministry has a steady stream of baby showers every year, but you notice one woman declines every invitation sent. You wonder why she isn’t excited to join the celebration of new life. Should you ask her why she is avoiding these parties?
You notice a man has been attending church and small group without his wife of only two years. You feel uncomfortable asking why she stays home, but you care and miss her dearly. You remember your husband mentioned a few months ago that he heard they were struggling with infertility. How do you show you care?
These are a few of the many stories we hear and have witnessed personally throughout our years speaking about reproductive loss. Every story is unique and filled with a multitude of hurt and often confusion. Grieving feels so isolating and those hurting need to know we love and care for them. But how?
Author Nancy Guthrie offers a deep well of wisdom in her book “What Grieving People Wish You Knew -about what really helps (and what really hurts).” Nancy dedicates this book to the thousands of GriefShare facilitators she has met over the years as they themselves comforted the thousands grieving sorrow upon sorrow.
Nancy covers the much-needed topics that we often want to avoid of what not to say, typical things we do say, assumptions we make, and what not to do. Instead, we need to think deeply about our words and actions. Using Scripture and her graceful approach, she offers the reader suggestions on what to say and do and how to battle the assumptions that creep in so naturally. She also writes a beautiful chapter about Heaven and salvation.
And as I have often felt at a loss for words or knowing what to do for my hurting friends, I felt relieved within the first few pages of the book. Nancy writes in Chapter 1, “It’s not up to you to make the pain go away, even though you would love to. Grieving people are not expecting you to make the pain go away. They’re really hoping that you will be willing to hurt with them. That’s what makes a great friend in the midst of grief!” How freeing is just that statement alone! We are to simply come alongside those hurting, letting God lead and bring the ultimate comfort.
We at RLN can’t recommend this book enough as we see it as an etiquette book for all helpers, for any loss. Please read and be confident as a helper. And remember Paul’s words as he writes to the church in Corinth,
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
For hope and healing.