January 25, 2017

Book Review: Birthed, by Elizabeth Hagan


I met Elizabeth Hagan on Twitter.

Yes, I know. No matter how many friends I can trace back to social media, it still seems strange. But then I am reminded that ultimately, that’s the whole point. The people behind the avatars, and their stories, are what have the power to shape us.

I posted a tweet asking to be introduced to female pastors, as I know very few. Elizabeth’s Twitter handle came back as a reply. I quickly reached out to her, and we set up a phone date. Months later, she told me she was coming to Nashville for a visit with her daughter, Amelia. We set up a Chick-fil-A playdate, in perfect mom fashion.

As my daughters ran in and out of the play area, grabbing a drink and checking in, she told me more of her story, her beautiful daughter sitting contentedly in her lap. And I immediately knew that we were kindred spirits. When I found out she had written a book, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

Birthed isn’t your typical book. Rather than coddling the reader with niceties and pretty theological bows on top of life’s complex sufferings, Elizabeth invites us into the layered and difficult details of her story of infertility. I once heard Nadia Bolz-Weber say that it’s the “jagged edges of our humanity” that allow us to see God in each other, and this is exactly what Elizabeth does through her writing.

Having walked through a much more brief and intense period of pregnancy loss in my own life, I could see my story in so much of Elizabeth’s grief and pain. The unrealized hopes, the emptiness, and the feeling that you are in the waiting room of life as others pass you by was so familiar. As mothers, our stories are all unique, but we so often keep the most tender aspects of our own losses and traumas to ourselves. Her ability to invite you in to the most intimate moments of her grief serves as a beautiful invitation to do the same in your own heart and life. And just maybe, to find the voice and courage to share your own story.

Elizabeth’s role as a pastor made her situation even that much more complicated- how could she encourage her congregation when she herself was walking through the darkest valley in her own life? How could she provide answers when she was asking so many difficult questions of God, only to hear a resounding silence? The way she navigates this path is so human, so perfectly imperfect. Toward the end of the book, she asks a question of herself- will she choose hope, or bitterness?

Although so much of her circumstances had given her every reason to choose the latter, it was her unshakeable belief in a God who loved her that gave her the strength to choose hope. And sometimes that is the biggest step we can take, isn’t it? To put one foot in front of the other, and not give in to bitterness and despair- at least not forever. To continue to choose hope. I am so glad the Elizabeth wrote this book, and I hope you will take the time to read it yourself. Her story will most definitely strengthen you to walk through your own pain, and continue to hope against all odds.

You can purchase a copy of Birthed here, and read more of Elizabeth’s work on her website: http://elizabethhagan.com/

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Hilary Barnett

Hilary Barnett is the founder of The New Mystique where she believes every mother is extraordinary, and typically writes the words that she most needs to hear.

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