Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Morel Madness‏ By: Lowell Washburn

Although definitely winding down, this year's spring mushroom season continues -- at least in the extreme northeast corner of the state. 

In reality, there are only two basic ways to cook these out-of-this-world taste treats --- indoors or outdoors.  Or to put it another way, civilized or uncivilized.  The indoor method utilizes clean natural gas and can often involve complex recipes.  The outdoor method utilizes natural fuels gathered from the same woodlands where the mushrooms were gathered.  Other than the morels themselves, this method involves but one additional ingredient -- butter.  For open fire cooking, I prefer to use a flat cast iron utensil.  While waiting for burning wood to become coals, I use the time to clean fish or halve the mushrooms.  Most people think that, before cooking, they need to cut, wash, salt, soak, and then carefully inspect each and every morel before they can even begin to think about cooking.   This is nuts.  Anyone who would treat a fresh morel that way should have their stick matches taken away and be forced to eat at fast food drive-throughs.  Culinary works of art, morel mushrooms are much too delicate for such barbaric treatment.  The only thing that washing and soaking will accomplish is that the mushrooms will become tasteless, soggy and fall apart.  Fresh morels deserve respect.  They should be consumed; not tortured.  Once captured, morels should be taken directly to the fire, cut in half, and cooked in butter.  That's it; nothing else -- no washing, no salt, no nothing.  Well, a hint of olive oil maybe; but since we're hunting and cooking in northeast Iowa's dairy country, I'll stick with the butter.  

"What about those insects," you ask?  Not to worry.  As things start to heat up most insects, especially the larger species, will quickly escape the morel's folds -- but much to their dismay, will usually not survive the swim through bubbling butter.  No matter, once exposed, the drifting insects are easy to work around.  Smaller insect life?  Also no problem; you usually can't see and never will taste them -- so just eat and enjoy. 

By the end of the annual mushroom run, any hunter worth his salt will smell like wood smoke, have consumed more bugs than a missionary, and will have blood samples running about 25 percent butter.  Although the morels will soon be gone, I'm already looking forward to September's first batch of chicken-of-the-woods.

I Remain, 
Pastor Steve

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Birds of Spring 2013

I am not a fanatic birder by any means but this Spring hes been one of the best I can remember! Even with a 14 inch snow on May 2nd, we have enjoyed a vast number of birds at out feeders. Here are the different varieties that we have seen and these are not actual pics of our birds but stock photos:


Rose Breasted Grossbeak

Northern Oriole


Indigo Bunting

Scarlet Tanger (Seen @ Camp)

I Remain, 
Pastor Steve

Monday, May 20, 2013

Avian Sweet Tooth -- Fun With Plums‏ By: Lowell Washburn

To me, it's always amazing how quickly birds can discover and exploit new food sources.  Put out a new hummingbird or oriole feeder, for example, and the species you hope to attract will often show up within hours -- sometimes within minutes.  Birds do the same thing, of course, with natural foods -- always exploring, always on the lookout for the newest bird food buffets.  Last week, the wild plums came into full bloom all across Northern Iowa; their brilliant white flowers appearing like snow drifts against the greening backdrops of spring.  There are two nice plum thickets near a woodland where I've been trying to photograph wild turkeys and I couldn't help but notice the birdlife the plum flowers were attracting.  Like the birds themselves, I decided to capitalize on the opportunity.  Although an overwhelming majority of the birds visiting the plums were goldfinches, I soon discovered that a good number of other species were also arriving for their sugar high -- with the list including orioles, warblers, and at least one siskin.  Birds utilized the plum flowers in different ways.  Goldfinches appeared to be mainly interested in eating the pollen.  Others, such as Tennessee warblers, ruby throated hummingbirds, and orioles simply guzzled the nectar.  While visiting birdlife are receiving their rewards now; I'm planning on returning for my sugar load in late summer when this year's crop of wild plums turn sweet and purple.


Adventures With Wood Ducks -- Spring Nesting - By: Lowell Washburn

Of all the waterfowl species that migrate into Iowa each spring, perhaps none is more brilliant in color or elegant in style that the wood duck.  As unique as it is beautiful, the woodie has adopted a lifestyle like no other.  As equally at home on land or in the treetops as it is on water; wood ducks can run through cover like a pheasant or scurry along tree branches with the agility of a squirrel -- or so it appears.  But getting a good look at wood ducks can be a challenge: shy and secretive, the birds are most comfortable in dense and wooded wetland habitats where they're safe from prying eyes.  While bow hunting turkeys this spring, I dummied into a real spring wood duck Honey Hole -- a tiny pond located inside a woodland.  Although the pond was small -- maybe only 40 feet in diameter --  wood duck traffic was heavy.  During late April, the place was like a beehive with cavity searching pairs constantly coming and going from before sunrise until around 10 o'clock or so.  By the end of April, a majority of hens were busy sitting in cavity nests and the previous 50:50 sex ratio quickly became skewed toward drakes.  By mid-May, the balance had tipped even further with drakes accounting for most of the ducks visiting the pond.  On my last visit, I counted eleven loafing drakes but only two hens -- a good sign that the nesting season is going well so far.  Since female wood ducks have a profound tendency to return to their natal area, the number of pairs utilizing the pond this spring would make it appear that past nesting success has been high.  The two active nests I know of should be hatching this week. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013


"Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen." Jude 24-25 (HCSB)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Achilles Gobbler -- The Rest of the Story‏

In the Great Out-of-Doors; the next big surprise may be waiting just around the corner. . . .

Gone but not forgotten, Snowstorm Achilles has been entered into the Weather History Book.  Beginning with a two-inch rainfall, the jack hammer storm system dumped and additional 16 inches of wet and heavy snow on Northern Iowa during May 2 & 3.  I was able to spend most of both days playing in the weather, mainly shooting photos while trying to bag a fourth season turkey.  During both storm days I encountered a magnificent gobbler with a long thick beard and sickle spurs.  I soon dubbed the bird as the "Achilles Gobbler".  This is the first time I've hung a personal name tag on a bird; I guess that record book storm just had me all wound up.  Much to my dismay, the Achilles Gobbler completely vanished after the storm.  A few days later I figured he was out of my life -- for good.

I started hunting different timbers.  When I shot a gobbler on May 10, I was thrilled that the bird was in the real Wall Hanger class.

The following morning, I was reviewing some of the snowstorm photos when I ran across the shots of the Achilles Gobbler.  In one of the pictures [Close Call Gob] I noticed that the turkey had a healed over cut just below the knee on his left leg -- an injury probably sustained while trouncing up on a group of some puny three or four year old toms.  Anyway, something bothered me about that photo, but I didn't know what it was.  A few minutes later, the light bulb suddenly came on.  The turkey I had just shot also had a similar cut on one of his legs.  Rushing to examine the slain gobbler's legs, I was delighted to discover that his left leg was a perfect match -- the healing wound was as distinctive as any personalized tattoo.  Another photo of the [live] turkey showed a similar cut at the base of the middle toe on the same foot.  Again it was a perfect match.

"Praise God", I exclaimed!  I had actually bagged the Achilles Gobbler and didn't even realize it until the next morning.  I realize that I may be taking this a bit out of context [or maybe not] but the Lord truly does work in mysterious ways.  The bottom line is that I'm extremely grateful to have had the experience and, needless to say, am grateful for the bird.  Although I've never done a full body mount on a wild turkey, this memorable gobbler is currently on its way to the taxidermist. 




Monday, May 13, 2013

Achilles Gobbler Is In The Bag - ‏ By: Lowell Washburn

Friday, May 10,2013:   Had an exciting -- actually two exciting -- hunts this morning.  Got into the woods early and, when daylight began, I saw a total of 12 birds roosted in the tree tops.  One nearby tom was strutting on the limb, and turkeys started coming down while it was still half dark. Some of the birds, including three jakes and two toms, touched down within 30 yards of where I sat.   Although I was soon treated to an incredible struttin' and gobbln' show, none of the birds ever got closer than 25 yards before hens led them in the wrong direction.  Even though I hadn't received a shot, the noisy close encounter had already made my day.  Considering the number of hens I'd already seen or heard, I figured it would be awhile before those toms would be looking for company.

I soon decided to pull up stakes and move to another part of the timber.  By the time I reached my destination, the sun was well above the horizon.  Within ten minutes of popping up the Double Bull, I spotted a single hen coming through the oaks.  I called, she responded, and I got a few photos.  That was the last turkey I saw or heard for the next hour, which was about the time I spotted a mature gobbler.  He was around 150 yards away walking across a grassy area located at the base of the ridge I was sitting on.  I struck up the Kirkman box call, and the gobbler hit the brakes.  I called again, and he stretched his neck about a mile.  When I hit the call a third time, the tom gobbled back.  We went back and forth for awhile until the tom finally began to strut in place.  But although the bird was clearly interested in my yelping, he appeared to have no plans of changing course.  The standoff continued; the gobbler quit strutting and I could tell he was losing interest.  To me it was obvious that this bird was about to take the show on the road.
Hitting the panic button, I began trying to start a fire with the box call. 
If I live to be a hundred, I'm not likely to forget that gobbler's reaction.  After briefly stretching his neck for a second time, the tom suddenly put his head down and charged my position.  When I use the word "charge" I don't mean the usual jogging often referred to as the Turkey Trot.  Instead, I mean the turkey was coming toward me at an all out sprint.  I doubt he could have gone any faster if a hungry coyote had been six inches off his tail.  Within seconds, the running bird was lost to view as he hit the bottom of the ridge.  The ridge top  was narrow, and I knew that when I saw the tom again he would likely be within thirty yards -- maybe less.

Suddenly, there he was.  No longer at a sprint, the tom was now approaching at a steady walk.  The early morning light was perfect, and as the gobbler made his way around gooseberry bushes  and  through patches of Dutchman's Breeches, I couldn't resist taking my first shot with the camera.  By the time I had made that decision the turkey was already too close for very much fooling around on my part.
Unfortunately, my thin mosquito netting was right in the way and I couldn't risk making a new opening at such close range.  Taking advantage of the only opportunity I had, I fired away and the attached "Final Strut" photo is the somewhat blurry, through-the-net result.
Laying the camera aside, I picked up the longbow and took aim again.  I was using a primitive 45 #, Osage orange bow crafted by Dave Thomas, and as I pulled back on the string I  quickly rehearsed my mental check list of 'shooting points'.  The broadhead hit home, passed completely through the tom, and the arrow came to rest a short distance away.

The tom sported a 10 1/2-inch beard and was armed with 1 1/4-inch, needle sharp spurs.  He weighed in at 21.5 pounds -- which was a quarter pound lighter than my biggest-ever jake bagged with the same bow in Clayton County in April.  Praise God for another exciting morning in the Iowa out-of-doors!

It isn't often that a person gets to enjoy two great turkey hunts in a single day.  


Saturday, May 11, 2013

A Great Article From Lowell Washburn...

Schulte’s Pasture

We all have favorite places.  Favorite deer stands, favorite places to hunt ducks, favorite turkey woods.

With Iowa’s spring turkey season currently at its peak, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about one my favorite places.  For me, there are few destinations that conjure up such a vast collection of fond memories.  This special place is simply known as Schulte’s Pasture.

Located in the rugged bluff country of northeast Iowa’s Clayton County, Schulte’s Pasture has been in use for a long long time.  For generations now, herds of Holstein dairy cows have gained sustenance here; the black and white bovines kept in place by the sagging, three-strand barbed wire fence that leads from farmstead building site to ridge top meadow.  Where growing saplings have sprouted too close, the rusted wire is forever entombed by several inches of wood and bark.

Completely surrounded by timber, Schulte’s Pasture is a veritable turkey magnet.  Small but mighty, the four acre plot is the first spot to green up each spring, and the short cropped grass presents an ideal backdrop for gobblers to strut their stuff as disinterested hens forage on new plant growth or take advantage of emerging insect life.  Although turkey traffic can be heavy, human hunters are rarely seen here.  In reality, few people even know the place exists.  Located completely out of sight and a good three quarters of a mile from the nearest county roadway, the pasture remains a well-guarded emerald secret.

We accidentally stumbled onto Schulte’s Pasture during the late 1970s.  That’s when Steve Schutte, Ed Kotz and I first began prowling the adjacent hardwood timbers.  It was a time when newly restored turkey populations and the mysterious sport of turkey hunting were both enjoying unprecedented adolescent growth spurts.  And although turkey populations were sparse by today’s standards, we usually managed to hear and occasionally even see birds.  Turkey seasons were short, turkey decoys were illegal, and hunting was only allowed during the morning.  But in spite of the many challenges, one of us usually managed to bag a turkey each year which statistically kept us at average or above. 

By the late1980s, turkey hunting had undergone dramatic change.  Turkey populations had soared and our success rate had followed the trend -- at least on the good days anyway.  By now, we were all busy raising families; and as we made our way into the 1990s, we began introducing a new generation of hunters to the unmatched thrills of turkey hunting.  The growing squadron of young hunters included my son Matt; Steve Schutte’s boys, Brad and Dan; and Ed Kotz’s son, Wesley.  By then, my brother Sterling and his son Justin had also joined the party.

Matt bagged his first gobbler along the northern fringe of Schulte’s Pasture.  It had been a tough hunt.  There had been three days of abnormally cool temperatures and driving rain.  Matt had contracted a World Class head cold, and both of us were bone tired and discouraged.  At around 5 o’clock on our final afternoon, the rain suddenly stopped.  The skies cleared, and we decided to give it one last try. 

Working and calling our way along an abandoned logging road, we soon detected the faint sound of distant gobbling.  As we hustled through the woodland, the continued gobbling led us straight to Schulte’s Pasture where we determined the bird was sounding off from just inside the timberline on the opposite side of the plot.  Cautiously creeping forward and finally taking our seat against the base of sturdy hardwood, we began calling.  The gobbler roared back, and immediately headed our way.  A slight ridge runs along the pasture’s centerline, and the first we saw of the approaching gobbler was the top of his magnificent tail fan -- vividly backlight against the late afternoon sun.  The tom quickly topped the rise and continued his approach.  After awing us with a final and spectacular display of gobbling, the tom stepped into range.  Matt’s 20 bore rocked the timber and his very first gobbler was in the bag.  The tom sported a long thick beard and needle sharp, inch-plus spurs -- a magnificent bird by any standard.  The day had provided both of us with a good lesson of just how quickly turkey hunting can spin on a dime.  The hunt is a memory we will forever cherish.

The mention Matt’s head cold, reminds me of a time when I didn’t feel too well myself.  Steve Schutte and I were enjoying a four day turkey hunt when I suddenly fell victim to the flu.  I spent a miserable night and when it came time to roll out the following morning, my temperature was pegging the thermometer at 102 degrees.  The weather had taken a sudden turn for the worse as well.  What had been ideal spring weather the day before had now become a significant late season snowstorm.  Alternating between sweating and freezing, I felt absolutely horrible and seriously considered staying out of the woods.  But after several minutes of just lying there and considering my options, I finally decided to at least try and go out for the first hour.

By the time daylight arrived, I had seriously begun to question the wisdom of my decision.  Wet and sticky, the snow was coming down so hard that visibility was severely limited.  Cold and soggy, the forest hardwoods were painted stark white on one side; while remaining dark and somber on the other.

There was, of course, no early morning gobbling.  Using a high pitched Tom Turpin Yelper, I tried sitting and calling at several locations as I worked my way through the timber -- desperately hoping to raise a response.  Eventually arriving on the south side of Schulte’s Pasture, I decided that this would be my final stop.  After calling for 10 minutes or so, I was about to pack it in when I heard a familiar sound --- the aggressive fighting purrs of male turkeys squaring off.  The purring continued to increase in volume until I figured the birds were within a literal five or six feet of my vibrating eardrum.  The only problem was that the turkeys were on my right side [I shoot right handed] and far enough to the rear that I couldn’t see them.

The situation escalated to a crisis when the purring of one bird suddenly became an alarm putt.  When a second bird began sounding the alarm, I knew I was in trouble.  My only hope was to execute a rapid about face, identify a target, and fire.  We all know from painful experience just how quickly a wild turkey can vanish.  And though I realized that my chances for success were slim or none, making the attempt was all I had.  There was also a question regarding the reliability of my firearm.  I was shooting a double barreled Navy Arms muzzleloader.  The gun, like everything else in the timber, was soaking wet.  Although I had tried to keep a more or less dry glove across the nipples, there was still a good probability of a misfire.

Something had to give, and it was now or never.  Rolling myself away from the tree, I twisted to the rear and back to the right as far as my skeleton would allow.  The turkeys -- which turned out to be a trio of jakes -- were already airborne.  Identifying all three as legal game, I quickly framed the head of the closest bird between the cocked hammers.  I pulled the front trigger and the 12 gauge roared.  Best of all, the retreating jake fell stone dead at a distance of 14 paces.  Returning to camp, I got into some dry clothes, crawled back into bed and slept until noon.  When I woke up, my fever was gone and I was ready for lunch.  The snow had stopped and Steve ended up shooting a nice tom the same afternoon.

But time moves on.  The boys grew bigger.  Hunting skills improved.  One by one, more gobblers were carried from the forest as the Beard Count grew.  Over time, our limited collection of turkey hunting stories became expanded to a library.  A good share of those outings took place at or around Schulte’s Pasture.  Many of the adventures were documented on Kodak film, and I enjoyed the unique privilege of photographing the boys as they posed with their first turkeys.   

But nothing stays the same, and times change.  The years and the seasons pass all too quickly.  Boys become men.  Kids grow up, leave home, and are soon having kids of their own.  Today, Brad Schutte is a financial planner living near Kansas City.  Dan Schutte is an environmental educator at Duluth.  Matt Washburn serves as a Conservation Officer with the Iowa DNR.  Wesley Kotz is a captain with the United States Army and was awarded the Bronze Star during a 2011 deployment to Iraq.  Justin Washburn sells commercial real estate in the Des Moines area.  Life used to seem simple; but not any more.  Young people have busy schedules and getting everyone to turkey camp at the same time presents a monumental challenge.

There are other changes as well.  Landowners age and retire; at least one has passed on.  And although the sagging barbed wire fences are still there, the black and white Holsteins no longer visit Schulte’s Pasture.  The leisurely open air grazing of contented dairy cows has been replaced with the stark confinement of modern day steel roofed, high-tech milk factories.

But there is also some good news.  Although now mostly abandoned, the pasture and its associated timbers remain.  As they have in times past, wild turkeys still come here each spring to gobble, strut, and to compete for hens along the pasture’s wooded margins.  Whenever I’m in the neighborhood and time allows, I still take the long walk back to this favored spot.  Sitting against the base of an ancient hardwood, I lean back and slowly close my eyes.  One by one, I try to recall the hunts, the gobblers, the successes, and the near misses.  Most of all, I remember the people -- the lifelong friends and family who helped create the countless memories that make this place so uniquely special.

As I suppose is the case with most of you, I often wish that I could turn back the hands of time.  I’d love to go back and hear the daybreak sounds of the waking forest.  I’d love to relive all the wondrously spectacular sunrises.  One more time, I’d like to see my friends as they [we] were when the sport of Iowa turkey hunting was still brand new.  As much as anything, I’d love to see the excitement in the eyes of all those young hunters.  I’d love to go back for a retake of all of those “first turkey” photos.

Like you, I have an endearing passion for wild turkeys and for the sport of turkey hunting; and I hope to see a lot more gobblers before I’m done.  But when the time does arrive for that inevitable final hunt, I have but one wish.  I hope that the very last gobbler I hear greeting the spring sunrise will be sounding off from somewhere along the shrouded margins of an emerald paradise --- A favorite place simply known as Schulte’s Pasture.
Lowell  Washburn                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                McGregor, Iowa
May 6, 2013   

Friday, May 10, 2013

Turkey Hunting 2013

I have been turkey hunting for five years without any turkeys harvested. Notice I did not say without success, there is a huge difference between harvesting an animal and success on a hunt trip!

My usual plan of attack when turkey hunting is to travel over to NE Iowa with a couple of very good friends, camp out, turkey hunt, eat at a small town cafe, and visit a fish and cheese shop in Wisconsin. Makes for a very full few days but I alway enjoy the short time away. 

This year was going to be different ... Due to circumstances I was not able to travel to NE Iowa and so my hunt would consist of hunting in the North Iowa area around Clear Lake. This presented me a bit of a challenge as I was not real familiar with good turkey areas around home. That is where a little help from those in the "know" really helps! 

I was able to be shown a number of spots that would be very good hunting areas. I purchased a tag for the third season and began my hunting adventure for this year. That third season did not go so well in that I hunted hard but did not even see a turkey. 
The fourth part of the turkey season opened and with a new tag in hand I was back at it! I used a pop up blind and had a Tom working my was when he spooked and took off, later that morning I saw a coyote, deer and lots of ducks and geese. One thing I noticed was that every time I went to my morning spot the turkeys would sound off and then head West. So one afternoon, I set up on the West  end of the area I was hunting but only saw a hen and a jake (an immature male) that was too far away for a shot. 

Then came the "May Snowstorm" that put the kibosh on my hunting for a few day. When I was able to resume, it was suggested that I return to the West end but move even further to the West. That I did. I found a spot on a fence line where I was able to see a plowed corn field on one side and a grass pasture on the other. The thought was that the turkeys that headed West every morning would have to make their way back to the wood to roost it the evening. That is exactly what happened!

On the night in question, I located the spot that I wanted and got set up hours before sunset. At about 7:15, I notice movement in the field and there was a mature Tom making his way toward the woods and moving directly toward me. After what seemed like an eternity he stepped out of the fence line at about 25-30 yards. That is when I let the Remington roar and harvested my very first turkey ever! Checking my watch the time was 7:18 PM. What a hunt!!! I was so elated, I could hardly wait for my my hunting partner to return to pick me up. Here are the particulars: 10 1/2 inch beard,3/4 inch spur (one was missing) and a weight of 19.6 pounds!

 I would love to be able to say that it was my incredible skill at calling or my ability with my decoys that got me my opportunity ... but the truth is this hunt was a flat our ambush!  As my Dad would say "you were in the right place at the right time". Sometimes "lucky" is better than good!

Already looking forward to next year!

I Remain, 
Pastor Steve 

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

5 Things Infertile Couples Want Friends, Families, and Churches to Know

5 Things Infertile Couples Want Friends, Families, and Churches to Know

Let’s face it: infertility is awkward for everybody involved. Friends and family members often don’t know whether to broach the subject at all, let alone know what to say. Childless couples want some help and support, but they are often silent about their struggle (as Rob Green pointed out in his first post in this series). Churches know the issue exists, but often don’t quite know what to do about it. What we’re left with is the proverbial elephant in the room. Well, let’s talk about that elephant.

We dealt with infertility for about 9 years before we adopted. We now have 2 children, and while we’re still technically dealing with infertility, that issue is mostly behind us. We cannot speak for all infertile couples (we welcome additions, subtractions, or other comments on this post), but we wanted to use our own experience—with the input of friends who have experienced infertility as well—to be very straight-up about what infertile couples want their family, friends, and churches to know.

You probably know someone who’s dealing with infertility, even if you don’t know it.

How common is infertility? One in ten couples of childbearing age face infertility, according to The American Pregnancy Association. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a similar statistic, saying that over 6 million US women age 15-44 experience infertility. Since many infertile couples suffer in silence, you need to trust the statistics. We’re not necessarily urging you to seek to identify these couples; we’re simply saying that in all likelihood, you do have some infertile couples in your life.

Your church can–and should–minister to couples struggling with infertility.

Some very simple decisions make the difference between your church helping infertile couples or pushing them away. To determine how you’re doing, consider these questions:
  • When you celebrate events like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, do you acknowledge—briefly—that while this is a day of rejoicing for many, it’s a day of mourning for others? These events can be brutal for infertile couples, since the purpose is to celebrate the beauty of a wonderful relationship that they are constantly being denied.To be clear, we’re not suggesting that the presence of a few childless couples in your church should drag down the entire celebration. We just think this is a great opportunity to follow Paul’s admonition in Romans 12:15 to rejoice with those who are rejoicing, and mourn with those who are mourning. Our pastor does a fantastic job of striking an appropriate balance. He focuses on the celebration, but he also reminds the congregation that there are people for whom this day is difficult, and he prays for such couples. Just a few words can go a long way toward making infertile couples feel like part of the church family on those days. It’s appropriate for infertile couples to obey the first half of Romans 12:15, especially on days designated as celebrations; but it’s equally appropriate for the rest of your church body to obey the second half in some small way.
  • Are infertile couples welcome in the classes and/or small groups that their peers attend, or are they encouraged to attend elsewhere because they’re “not a family yet?” Don’t exclude these couples from family-oriented classes. They may have some of their closest Christian friends in those classes; but also, these couples may have children any time, and can therefore benefit from your family-focused lessons. Maybe they’ll ultimately decide to try a different class, but why not let them decide? 
  • Are you providing ready counsel and classes to address the weighty moral questions these couples will face? It’s likely that their doctor will strongly suggest things like implanting several embryos with the intent to “selectively reduce if needed.” The couple may have to make decisions about whether to use donor eggs, sperm, or embryos. They may be asked whether they want to freeze some of their embryos. They may wonder whether setting out on a treatment path costing tens of thousands of dollars is good stewardship. The opportunities to help these couples make biblically informed decisions and solidify their beliefs are tremendous; don’t miss them.
    If a couple struggling with infertility started attending your church, how long would it take for them to find others who share their struggle, and get the biblical help and Christian camaraderie they need?
    In addition to counsel and classes, these couples may need to talk with others going through similar challenges. Has your church done anything to facilitate such a group? If a couple struggling with infertility started attending your church, how long would it take for them to find others who share their struggle, and get the biblical help and Christian camaraderie they need?

How to be a blessing to infertile couples

  • Give them truth, not just sympathy. This point comes from Debbie Costa, a biblical counselor and member of our church who is dealing with cancer. When asked how others can minister to hurting people, Debbie said, “I need more than sympathy; I need truth.” She quoted Psalm 61:2: “From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Sympathy is nice, but it doesn’t changes us. Truth can help us think and respond differently.
  • Pray for them. If you know them well enough, ask how you can specifically pray for them. They might tell you that they’re waiting on test results, or deciding on treatment options, or making some difficult financial decisions, etc. On their behalf, appeal to the One who is truly in control of the outcomes (Ephesians 1:11).
  • Be careful when asking people “why don’t you have kids yet” or “when are you finally going to start your family?” If you’re thinking about posing those questions to a couple in their late 20s or older, understand that there may be some very private answers behind the questions. Are you close enough to this couple to have this conversation? If you are, consider having it (again, it’s often the elephant in the room). If not, let them bring it up if they choose.
  • Maintain your friendships with them. Infertile couples can feel left behind as their friends and family members have children and begin new lives. Don’t be afraid to invite them to activities that involve children. And don’t assume that they won’t want to go out to eat with you if you’re going to bring your kids, or if you’re pregnant again. Whether they come to activities or not should be up to them. Don’t make the decision for them by choosing to not invite them.

Infertile couples are not completely clueless when it comes to children.

My wife was an early childhood education specialist who had worked with hundreds of children over several years’ time, and dealt with an amazing variety of behaviors. And yet, when she simply joined in a conversation that some young mothers were having about children, she was asked, “and how many children do you have?”—not in a way to invite her into the conversation, but as if to imply that she couldn’t relate since she didn’t have children of her own. Sadly, this wasn’t an isolated incident.

Such comments are almost certainly born out of ignorance more than malice, and we understand that. And developing a thick skin is part of handling this trial well. Insensitivity on the part of some does not justify over-sensitivity on the part of others. So the point here isn’t to say “shame on you if you ever hurt someone’s feelings.” The point is that you should never assume that childless couples (infertile or not) are unloving or completely inexperienced. You don’t need to be afraid to leave your children with us in the church nursery. Don’t assume we don’t know how to feed a baby from a bottle or change a diaper. Don’t automatically think we can’t be effective Sunday School teachers. We can be as compassionate and competent as anyone else. (Just to be clear: we know that there are indeed things we can never completely understand without having children in our home day in, day out for years.)

Infertility can cause severe financial and marital strain, in addition to the emotional strain.

Infertility testing and treatment can cost thousands of dollars per round, and each time, there’s no guarantee of a positive outcome. Worse yet, it’s common for these tests and procedures to not be covered by insurance.

You may have heard of couples trying a procedure like in vitro fertilization—or similar procedures like GIFT (the latter was our choice). Did you know that such procedures cost about $15,000 and offer only a modest chance of success? On top of that, couples are recommended to commit to multiple cycles of some of these treatments.

It’s easy to say that a life is priceless, but would you say that about just the possibility of life?
So now we get to the kinds of financial questions infertile couples have to answer: how much money are we willing to spend to try to have a child? Should we sell our house? Take out a second mortgage? Move to a state that mandates that insurance covers infertility treatment? Skip vacations? How many rounds of procedures can we afford? Are we being good stewards of our money by spending tens of thousands on procedures, or should we be investing that money in savings, retirement, or charitable causes? It’s easy to say that a life is priceless, but would you say that about just the possibility of life?

If you think the adoption path is much better, think again. Domestic and international adoptions can easily cost $25,000-30,000. And while this may be more of a ‘sure thing’ than infertility treatments, the very decision of when to change paths from treatments to adoption can cause a lot of strain as well. How do you both agree to stop trying to have children?

Combine the difficulty of these financial decisions—which can recur for years—with the emotional rollercoaster of getting your hopes up and having them dashed, over, and over, and over, and over. Is it any surprise that some marital strain can result? The unifying desire of starting a family can eventually become a source of conflict when emotions are running high and decisions are not clear.

Infertility isn’t a blank check for self-pity or lack of accountability. We need to be encouraged, but also exhorted.
What can family, friends, and the church do about this? Simple: pray, encourage, exhort. If you have a close enough relationship with the husband or the wife, keep them accountable. Ask questions like, “how are you and your spouse doing? Are you praying together about these decisions (Philippians 4:6)? Are you showing submission to one another in the ways outlined in scripture?” Help them remember that God has a plan—not simply for their own temporary satisfaction, but for his glory and kingdom (Isaiah 55:8-9). They may need to take a hard look at whether their shared desire is indeed what God wants for them. Infertility isn’t a blank check for self-pity or lack of accountability. We need to be encouraged, but also exhorted.

Brian Nicholson

About Brian Nicholson

Brian Nicholson is the former Director of Electronic Communications at Faith Ministries.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

So, .... You Missed Me?

Got a note from a friend that read: "WOW --- I'm absolutely thrilled to see that you put something new on your blog!  Way to be." What an encouragement!

As far as I can tell there are only a couple of folks still dropping and checking out my blog ... my friend and my brother. I'm not even sure about my brother as he too may have given up on me due to a lack of postings.

Either way I'm thankful for the notes and comments that I receive, and no promises being made, but my goal is to post more.

So, whats on the horizon ....

I'm pretty sure now that I will be obtaining another turkey tag for the final part of the season in Iowa. I hopefully will purchase it sometime nest week and get back out into the timber as sooon as possible! The season closes on May 19th.

Summer Camp season is coming on fast! Special Camp begins on June 3 and then it is one thing after another! Due to a lack of counselors from our church, I will be most likely counseling Jr. Boy, Jr. High and Sr. High. I have been asked to be the evening speaker at Family Camp #3 in the middle of July. That is a really cool opportunity and I'm looking forward to that!

Something I have not done for awhile is to post something from Lowell Washburn, I used to call his stuff "Creation Corner"  ... Enjoy!

There wasn't any gobblin' this morning -- at least in my corner of the timber.  Snowstorm Achilles was venting it fury across the mid-west, putting a literal damper on this year's already tardy spring weather.  In the Clear Lake area, the storm was following up a two-inch rainfall by dumping anywhere from 9 to 11 inches of wet and heavy snow before sunrise.

I don't have to tell any of you that weather like this is hard on outdoor equipment; but not nearly as hard as it is to stay indoors when such a magnificent, record breaking storm is on the prowl.  Entering the woods, it took about one minute before my stuff was soaked.  But when daylight began to creep in, the timber came alive with activity.  Although I saw or heard ten bird species by legal sunrise, it was the sparrows that stole the show with five species showing up in short order.  Larger birds, like jays and cardinals, arrived as soggy bundles of feathers.  By contrast, the smaller birds were, for the most part, bone dry.  An adult Cooper's (hawk)showed up and tried to catch a white throated sparrow, but was too wet to complete the task.  The Cooper's lit just yards away and I got off two quick shots before he heard the camera.  Just before full light, I spotted a roosted gobbler farther back in the woods.  "Great.  There's a chance," I thought.  But with the tom still in the tree at 9:30, my optimism began to wane.  When I finally sneaked out of the woods, he was still sitting on the branch.

I went back home, dried off, the snow backed off and finally quit.  Back in the woods this afternoon, I saw a single hen and I what I assumed was the same gobbler I spotted this morning following another hen.  I had two fairly close sightings before sunset; one at about 30 yards and another at around 18 yards -- a close call but no decent shot for the bow.  I stayed in the timber until sometime after dark.  Although I saw deer -- including one buck under 15 yards  -- I was only able to spot a single hen going up to roost.  Nevertheless, I suspect the gobbler roosted somewhere fairly close.  He is a great looking bird with long thick beard and very nice spurs [attached photos].  I plan on returning to woods well before daylight.  Maybe I'll see him again.

I Remain,
Pastor Steve

PS: Enjoy Lowell's Photos: