Keeping Up Appearances

They had been together for twenty years.  The first ten had been relatively happy but after the loss of their child, their marriage started to crumble.  They went for counseling and things improved but only for a while.  They tried unsuccessfully to have other children.  They thought of adopting but decided not to.  The wait period was too long.

They thought of going for more counseling but felt too embarrassed to do so.  At church they acted like there was nothing wrong with their marriage.  When people looked at them, they saw a couple who were still going strong in spite of their loss.  They didn’t see the pain that was beneath the surface as Sarah watched other mothers holding their children or as husbands put their arms around their wives, their faces reflecting the love in their hearts.  All they saw was the artificial smile on her face when she and Bill walked through the front door of the church and were greeted by the elders at the entrance to the sanctuary.  No one knew the turmoil that had become a daily part of her life.

How much longer could she continue with this charade?  She wanted a real marriage not an artificial one.  She was tired of keeping up appearances.  Either they were going to make this marriage work again or they were going to call it quits.  The latter terrified her.  She couldn’t imagine being on her own again after being with Bill for twenty years.  The idea of starting all over again at the age of forty-nine was daunting.  She thought of what the people in church was say if she and Bill were to split up.  Neither of them had committed adultery so, why end their marriage?  Why not get counseling?  Why not try to work things out?  In their eyes, she and Bill had no grounds for divorce.  And what if they decided that they wanted to end their marriage and then, later on down the road, one of them decided that they wanted to get married again?

The words of Jesus came flooding through her mind, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her.  And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11, 12).  She didn’t want to be labelled an adulteress should she decide that she wanted to find happiness with someone else. 

Should she do as her mother did?  Her parents’ marriage was not a happy one yet they stayed together.  There had never been any divorce in the family and they didn’t want to break that tradition.  She had watched how miserable they both were, the love between them fade until it was gone.  All the while, they pretended that things were fine between them when they were around friends, other family members and in church.  Only she and her brother knew that it was all a charade, that their marriage was artificial.  She didn’t want that for herself.  She didn’t want to pretend like her parents did. She saw what years of pretending had done to them.  It wasn’t until after her father’s death, that her mother started to live again.  The spark was back in her eyes.  She never remarried but she lived the rest of her life in content.

Sarah had vowed that she would never go through what her parents did and yet, here she was, twenty years later facing a tough choice about her marriage.  What should she do?  Divorce Bill and be happy or stay with him and be miserable?  Getting up from the bed, she knelt down beside it, her head bowed and her hands tightly clasped.  “Lord, please tell me what to do.  I love Bill but we are no longer happy together.  I don’t want us to continue to live like this.  I know you hate divorce and I never imagined that our marriage would end like this but I know that you want us to be happy even if it means that we can’t be happy with each other.  Please help me to make the best choice.  Please…”

The tears started to fall so she reached over to grab a handful of tissues from the box and something fell on the carpet.  She picked it up.  It was last week’s church bulletin.  She had left it on the bedside table, meaning to read it when she had the time.  She turned it over and her eyes fell on an announcement.  It read:

Courageous Hearts

The pace and pressures of life place enormous strains on a marriage. Couples often find themselves merely coexisting. They share the same house and split the bills, but that’s about it. Courageous Hearts helps couples rebuild vital connections in their marriage through clear communication and healthy ways of resolving conflicts.

Our Courageous Hearts Retreat is designed to restore communication and rekindle affection encouraging you to have a healthy Christian marriage.

Listed below the announcement were the dates of the retreat and a phone number. She got up from the floor and left the room, holding the bulletin, her mind racing.  That evening after dinner, Bill sat next to her on the sofa.  “Morris gave me this” he said, handing her a small card.  Morris was their next door neighbor and an elder in their church.  She took it and glanced down at it, her eyes widening.  It was the same announcement that was in the bulletin.  She looked up at him and asked, “Do you think we should go?”

He nodded.  “I am willing to give our marriage another try, if you are.”

“I am.”  It was worth another try.  She felt that this was what God wanted and she trusted Him to know what was best for Bill and her.  She had heard of marriages almost on the brink of divorce being restored because of one of these retreats. Perhaps, the same miracle could happen for Bill and her.   After all, with God anything was possible…

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A Sewing Machine

And let your widows trust in Me – Jeremiah 49:11b

I had an aunt who used to sew on the side and a co-worker who sews her own tops and dresses. My mother had a sewing machine but I don’t remember seeing her use it.  Growing up it never occurred to me to learn how to sew.  I was more interested in reading romance novels.  If I were among the poor of Asia, knowing how to sew would come in very handy.

For the poor of Asia, sewing is not just a hobby; it is an opportunity to earn a livelihood for their family.

For one widow, sewing was her lifesaver.  Unable to feed her family, she cried out to God in desperation and He answered her prayer through a sewing machine.  Watch her amazing story.

I was moved by her story.  She turned to God in her greatest need and He came through for her.  As God usually does, what He provided was beyond what she expected.  And in response to His faithfulness, she was faithful in returning a tithe of what she earned.  The sewing machine was not only the source of her income which she used to feed her family but it was her opportunity to share her testimony with others.  As a result her neighbors wanted to know more about the God who had given her the sewing machine which changed her life and the lives of her children.

It’s remarkable how God used something as simple and basic as a sewing machine to answer this widow’s prayers.  And He is using sewing to bring joy to other women.  In South Asia, there are sewing centres where they receive daily devotions, counseling, prayer and fellowship while attending a four-month sewing course which will equip them with the skills they need in order to have a better future.

Imagine the joy of a woman living in poverty in India, who is able to sell the beautiful garment she has created, to feed her family or help put a roof over their heads. Imagine the greater joy she felt upon hearing those beautiful words of Jesus for the first time through the sewing/tailoring ministry established in her village, where she learned to sew and establish her business – Christian Aid Mission

The widow reminded me that it is always best to wait upon the Lord.  She thought of remarrying but decided against it because it would not have been the best thing for her children.  She put their needs before her own.  She turned to God instead.  She followed Solomon’s advice, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding ; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths (Proverbs  3:5, 6).   Even in her moments of despair and desperation, she held on to her faith and leaned on the Rock, trusting in His love and compassion.  And her prayers were answered in the most wonderful and unexpected way.

I pray that we will have the faith of this widow who didn’t cave the temptation to solve her problems by herself.  Too often we try to do things on our own instead of seeking God in prayer and waiting for Him to act on our behalf.  Faith and reason prevailed in this widow’s case.  She didn’t have to depend on a new husband to care for her.  Instead she could depend on Almighty God who would be a Father to her children.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you – Matthew 7:7

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; Christian Aid Mission

Women And Infertility

I was watching General Hospital and one of the characters received the news that she could not have children.  Any child she carried would not be carried to full term.  She would lose the baby.  What heartbreaking news.  It hurts to see women who want to be mothers and who would be great mothers unable to have children while those who are unfit have children.  It doesn’t seem fair.  Lulu, the character wondered why this happened to her since there was no family history of infertility.  Before that she blamed herself for her condition because she had had an abortion when she was a teenager.

I have often wondered why are some women unable to have children or carry them to full term?  There was a time when I was afraid that I would not be able to have children.  In biblical times barren women were looked down upon by other women.  Sarah was despised by her servant Hagar because she was able to conceive while her mistress couldn’t (Genesis 16:4).  Hannah was tormented by Peninnah, her husband’s other wife and rival because the LORD had closed her womb.  She made Hannah’s life a living hell until God blessed Hannah with children.  Rachel rejoiced when she conceived her first child, saying, “God has taken away my reproach” (Genesis 30:23).

In developing countries women face ostracisim and see their infertility as a failing or a curse.  Newsweek ran a story in 2008 about women around the world who are coping with infertility.  One woman was uable to conceive for the first 13 years of her marriage.  She said that people would ask a woman her name—and then, “How many children do you have?” When the woman answered “none”, they don’t know what they can talk to you about.”

It must be so difficult for a woman to be surrounded by family members and friends who have children of their own or to see mothers where ever you go with their children and know that she would never have that experience.  It’s ironic. There are women who can have children but choose not to and there are women who would like to be mothers but are unable to have children.

What causes infertility in women?  Women’s Health Government has a fact sheet which answers these and other questions about infertility.

What is infertility?

Infertility means not being able to get pregnant after one year of trying (or six months if a woman is 35 or older). Women who can get pregnant but are unable to stay pregnant may also be infertile.

Pregnancy is the result of a process that has many steps. To get pregnant:

  • A woman’s body must release an egg from one of her ovaries (ovulation).
  • The egg must go through a fallopian tube toward the uterus (womb).
  • A man’s sperm must join with (fertilize) the egg along the way.
  • The fertilized egg must attach to the inside of the uterus (implantation).

Infertility can happen if there are problems with any of these steps.

Infertility among women is common.  According to  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about 10 percent of women (6.1 million) in the United States ages 15-44 have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant.

What causes infertility in women?

Most cases of female infertility are caused by problems with ovulation. Without ovulation, there are no eggs to be fertilized. Some signs that a woman is not ovulating normally include irregular or absent menstrual periods.

Ovulation problems are often caused by polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a hormone imbalance problem which can interfere with normal ovulation. PCOS is the most common cause of female infertility. Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) is another cause of ovulation problems. POI occurs when a woman’s ovaries stop working normally before she is 40. POI is not the same as early menopause.

Less common causes of fertility problems in women include:

What increases a woman’s risk of infertility?

Many things can change a woman’s ability to have a baby. These include:

Check out the Women’s Health Government fact sheet to find out how age can affect a woman’s ability to have a child; how long a woman should try to get pregnant before consulting a doctor; how a doctor determines if a woman and her partner have fertility problems and treatments.  They also offer more information (links) on infertility that may help you or someone you know who may be having difficulty getting pregnant.

Glen Meade Center for Women’s Health outlines the ways in which women can be tested for infertility:

  • Blood tests to check hormone levels, including progesterone and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)
  • Checking morning body temperature to determine if ovaries are releasing eggs
  • Hysterosalpingography (a radiologic assessment of the uterus and fallopian tubes)
  • Pelvic ultrasound
  • Laparoscopy (inspection of pelvic region)
  • Luteinizing hormone uterine test (ovulation prediction)
  • Thyroid function tests

There is hope for women experiencing infertility.  Glen Meade offers the following treatment options depending on the cause of the infertility:

  • Education and counseling
  • Fertility treatments, such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF)
  • Medications that treat infections and clotting disorders
  • Medications that help women grow and release eggs from the ovaries

Notes to Women wants to reach out to women facing infertily by encouraging them to read articles from women who are coping with it such as this one.  We hope that the tips for living with infertility will be helpful to you and give you some comfort.

Sources:   http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/infertility.cfmhttp://www.glenmeadehealth.com/ms_infertility.html; http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2008/09/14/what-it-means-to-be-a-woman.html