By / May 7

Mother’s Day can be bittersweet for many. One in 10 couples struggle with infertility, and approximately 10 to 20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriages. For many women who long to have a child, Mother’s Day can serve as a difficult reminder of what they desire, but do not have. The potential pain of Mother’s Day extends further still — for women have chosen an adoption plan for their child, single women who desire to be married and have a family, or women who have had an abortion. And others might be grieving the loss of or navigating a difficult relationship with their mother.

Waiting

Personally, Mother’s Day can be filled with conflicting emotions. I was born with a somewhat rare medical condition that prevents me from bearing biological children. The loss of that dream feels especially poignant this time of year. But I also have a desire to honor my own mother and mother-in-law and celebrate the women in my life who are mothers. Romans 12:15 is often on my lips as I navigate these tensions and seek to “rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

My husband and I are in the process of an international adoption from India. This Mother’s Day, I feel the strange tension of pursuing motherhood but not yet stepping into the role of “mother.” I’m waiting for paperwork to be approved, for a social worker to deem us eligible to be parents, and to be matched with a child. But I know that waiting is not in vain. 

As an adoptee myself, I’m aware that my children’s stories will contain trauma. Even if our children are adopted young, there is trauma involved any time there’s a break in the natural family. The issue of adoption and child welfare is deeply important to me. I’ve spent time and energy navigating the complexities of these issues in order to advocate on behalf of vulnerable children. While we wait, we are reading books on trauma-informed parenting, listening to seminars, and gleaning wisdom from other adoptive parents so that we can love our children well. Our waiting is not in vain.

Watching 

We’re also watching the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in India with broken hearts. According to the BBC, “India has seen more than 300,000 new cases a day for nearly two weeks straight while deaths stand at 220,000. Experts say total Covid cases and deaths in India are likely to be much higher, citing lack of testing and patients dying at home without being seen by doctors.” The images and stories we’re witnessing have caused global alarm and attention. I can’t help but wonder how many children will be orphaned because of the thousands of COVID-19 deaths. 

Praying 

As we watch and wait, we do the best thing we know how to do: We pray. We lift up our future children in prayer almost daily. They might not be known to us, but they are known to our Father, and in that, we take great comfort. We pray for their safety and protection. We pray for their biological parents and the challenging circumstances that led them to making an adoption plan for their children. We pray for the leaders in India to make good and wise decisions for their citizens. We pray for the souls of our children, that they might come to know the Lord as their Savior at a young age.

In my waiting, I often echo the words of David, “O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress.” Waiting can often feel helpless, but Psalm 27:14 reminds us to “be strong, and let your heart take courage” as we “wait for the Lord.” I fix my eyes upon the Lord and ask him to fill me with his strength when I feel weak. 

If you find yourself in a season of waiting right now, allow me to remind you that you are never alone in your struggle. Psalm 38:9 reminds us that “all our longing is before God; our sighing is not hidden from Him.” The Lord promises never to leave or forsake his children. He promises to be good and to set his steadfast love upon us. When you feel overwhelmed and discouraged, on Mother’s Day or any time, press into the promises of the Lord. 

By / May 7

There is no overstating the importance of mothers in the growth of Christianity. From the devotion of Mary to the faithful example of Lois and Eunice (the mother and grandmother of Timothy), the pages of Scripture are filled with the stories of how mothers have influenced their children to follow the will of God. 

Church history is no different. Below are some mothers from church history who have, through their lives of faithful devotion, contributed to the story of Christianity. Though their stories are often overshadowed by those of their children and husbands, their lives were pivotal for the advance of the gospel. 

Monica: The weeping mother

Outside the pages of Scripture, few mothers are as important in church history as Monica, mother of Augustine of Hippo. Much of what we know of her is drawn from her son’s Confessions, and the picture that emerges is of a mother who by her tears and prayers earnestly desired to see her son come to know Christ. Although she was married to an unbeliever, Monica was persistent in her faith. Though Augustine recounts that his youth and early adulthood was spent in a life that was characterized by vice and sin, he also records how Monica earnestly sought his salvation. 

She is most famously remembered for the tears and petitions that she offered for Augustine as he lived apart from God. After learning that Augustine had become a Manichaean (a dualistic sect that had much in common with the heretical Gnostics), Monica forced him from the home. However, while speaking to a holy man she was told “the child of those tears shall never perish.” After following her son to Rome and then Milan, Monica was able to see her son converted to Christianity not long before she died. 

Katharina Luther: The industrious mother

Though Martin Luther is often remembered for his role in kick-starting the Protestant Reformation, the role of Katharina Luther is no less important. Though she was a Catholic nun, she grew to be convinced of the truths of the Reformation and escaped her convent, along with other nuns, by hiding in barrels of fish, all of this arranged by Luther. After her escape, she and Luther were married, and she organized and ran his household. Noted for her industrious ability to manage the household, Katie was a beloved wife and mother. Luther was fond of calling her “my lord Katie” to describe his trust in her ability to oversee their household. Further, he describes her as the “morning star of Wittenberg” because she would often rise at 4 a.m. to begin her day’s work. These duties included overseeing the family, managing their finances (a task Luther realized she was more equipped to do than he), overseeing the boarders and students who lived with them, managing their farm, and also organizing a hospital on their property in times of sickness Over the course of their marriage, she would give birth to six children, and the couple would raise four orphans. 

Anna Maria Moon: The educating mother

Anna Maria Barclay, Lottie Moon’s mother, instilled in her daughter a deep love of education. This desire to educate her daughter, the same as she did her sons, proved instrumental in the latter work that Lottie Moon would do in China. Because of her mother’s support and urging, Lottie would go to college at Virginia Female Seminary and eventually Albermarle Female Institute (the all-girl counterpart of the University of Virginia). Lottie would become one of the first women in the South to receive a master’s degree. During her studies, she became proficient in a number of languages: Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, Italian, and Spanish. Chinese would of course come with her time in China as a missionary. 

The love of learning that her mother gave to her, and which was so crucial for her spiritual development, was an essential part of her evangelism. Moon would found a girl’s boarding school and teach other children Bible stories and catechism as well as hymns. This method of evangelism through education formed the cornerstone of her work in northern China. She would eventually expand the single school into a multitude that educated boys and girls. The growth of missions in China and the creation of the international mission offering at Christmas came through the commitment of Moon’s mother to provide her with an education and the ability to exercise her gifts through ministry.

Morrow Graham: The praying mother

Morrow Graham’s fame comes from her son, the evangelist Billy Graham. But it is her influence on him that he says was essential to his coming to know Christ—it was nothing spectacular, but a daily consistency in her faith that was essential in shaping her son. In his memoir, Just as I Am, Graham tells how his mother was essential in the spiritual formation of her children. She provided a sense of family stability and unity: “We really cared about each other, and we liked to do things together.” 

Just as mothers daily perform work that goes unnoticed, these mothers are a reminder of the value that the small acts can have for the advance of the cause of Christ.

But it was her faith and devotion that shaped him more than anything. According to Graham, “Of all the people I have ever known, she had the greatest influence on me. I am sure that one reason that the Lord has directed and safeguarded me, as well as Ruth and the children, through the years was the prayers of my mother and father.” Those prayers were a constant reminder to Graham of the family he had left and of his calling. Whenever he spoke of his time at college, he always spoke of her (and his father) daily praying every morning for him and what that meant to his ministry. Morrow Graham’s faithfulness in the small acts of prayer and family devotion was essential to the faith of her son and has led to many coming to faith.

Elisabeth Elliot: The widowed mother

Elisabeth Elliot is known because her husband, Jim Elliot, was killed while serving as a missionary to the Waorani tribe of Ecuador. What is even more remarkable about Elliot is her commitment to evangelism. After the death of her husband, she learned the language of the Waorani people and then moved to the village with her 3-year-old daughter and another of the wives. Elliot modelled for her daughter what it looked like to live in full dependence on God and extend grace and forgiveness because of what God had done for her. Her life, and that of her co-workers, led to the conversion of many of the members of the tribe, including several of the men who had killed her husband. This widowed mother found herself the older sister of a number of new children in Christ. 

For many of these women, there is little information about them. They are outshined by their husbands, sons, and daughters. But there is a quiet nobility in this truth. The truths of the gospel were not dispersed to the ends of the earth by the great figures. Often, it was by people for whom only a few small scraps of information remain that the faithful work of evangelism continued. Just as mothers daily perform work that goes unnoticed, these mothers are a reminder of the value that the small acts can have for the advance of the cause of Christ.

By / May 12

“If I could be anything in the world, I would be a mother.” -Abigail Waldron, third grade

David Platt, whose family struggled with infertility, has said, “There is a unique pain that comes from preparing a place in your heart for a child that never comes.” Infertility is a topic that people discuss very little, but I’ve read as many as one in eight couples struggle with it. While that number may sound very high, I imagine if you combine it with the number of couples who experience some other sort of reproductive loss, it would be even higher, making reproductive loss one of women’s most painful and hidden griefs.

Life is valuable. We see this each time God chooses to bring a new baby into the world, and we marvel in wonder at his goodness and kindness in giving us these tiny little miracles. God has entrusted women with the very important role of being life-givers. And this matters, because life matters. Abigail Waldron, author of Far as the Curse Is Found: Searching for God in Infertility, Miscarriage, and Stillbirth, knows this well. She also understands the pain that comes when children don’t come as quickly as one had hoped and the deep grief of losing a baby—her daughter, Avaleen Hope—through miscarriage at 15 weeks.

About the book

In effort to reconcile the God she’s known since childhood with her disappointment and grief, Abigail took the year after her miscarriage and interviewed 11 families who have also suffered some type of reproductive loss. These include families:

  • who birthed children after years of infertility
  • who were never able to have biological children
  • who adopted
  • whose adoptions failed
  • who pursued various reproductive treatments
  • who decided against various reproductive treatments
  • who experienced stillbirth
  • who experienced secondary infertility

Abigail wanted to see how God has met them in their pain, and in the process, she was hopeful that God would meet her in her own pain. Her story and how she processed her own grief is intertwined within each of the interviews. Abigail hoped her book would be able to serve as a sort of community for those who are hurting and to help them feel less alone in their pain, but most of all, she is hopeful it will help others find glimpses of God, who is mysteriously present in our deepest darkness.

Abigail writes from a real and raw perspective. It’s easy to appreciate her honesty and vulnerability. Grief is deeply painful, and Abigail willingly lets you see glimpses of her heart as she struggles through the questions, “Why would a good God allow such painful suffering? How can his presence be felt and trusted in the face of such great anguish?” Throughout the book Abigail continually reminds herself of the truth of God’s Word in the midst of her intense pain and struggle.

4 common themes

As I poured over each interview, there were several common, helpful themes I noticed:

  1. God’s sovereignty: Reading through each of these interviews, I noticed many of the families had to come to terms with the fact that we have no control over our fertility. Brian and Linda’s story in chapter five so beautifully illustrates this. “. . . with God, there isn’t an alternative reality.” They trust God’s control over their family: “The story we live is the story God wrote for us . . . God doesn’t have a plan B for building families.” They affirm that “infertility might be a surprise to us, but it’s not to God.”
  2. You can choose joy: We’re all different. We all respond to pain and grief differently, and that is okay. In this book, you’ll see how people grieved their losses differently, and how sometimes men and women have different ways in processing their pain. No matter how different we may be, we can all choose to fight for joy. Joy is always a choice, and we can trust God to work in and through our suffering to make us more joyful in Christ. At the end of chapter five, Abigail writes, “There is mystery in God’s ways and sovereignty that we will never understand. . .We cannot understand. We cannot control. . . God works in and through suffering to bring mysterious joy. . . It helps in this season of not knowing. . .to be reminded that God wins, that redemption triumphs, that there will be a day, in eternity if not now, when we will see clearly that all of this struggle and loss was indeed somehow God’s strange and mysterious gift.”
  3. We can trust God: We don’t know our future, but God does. God knows it and plans it. God is in every detail. He knows how every part of our life will work together, and his plans are good. In the midst of our pain, if we can remember God is good and kind, then we’ll be able to trust him to write our story, even if he writes it differently than we would have chosen.
  4. Life is really about our relationship with Jesus: As much as we we’d like to think that if God would just answer our prayer for a child, we’d always be happy, and our longing would be satisfied, it just isn’t true. Yes, children bring joy and happiness, but they can never be the absolute focus of it without becoming idols. Jesus is meant for that place in our hearts and our lives. He must be the ultimate treasure of our hearts. In chapter 12, Bethany so beautifully reminds us of this as she says, “I guess redemption always comes out of loss . . . Our only hope is Christ. It is not in becoming a mom. It’s not in becoming a family. It’s not in becoming a son or a daughter. It’s not anything that you gain in this life that matters. It’s your relationship with Christ.”

Martin Luther said, “Even a weak faith may lay hold of a strong Christ.”

Conclusion

As a woman who has experienced reproductive loss myself in the form of unexplained infertility, I would wholeheartedly recommend Abigail’s book to other women. You may not completely relate to her struggle with a year of infertility and miscarriage, but chances are, you can relate to one of the other families interviewed in the book. In this book, you’ll see how these families came to see God and rest in him during their pain and suffering.

If you’re currently struggling with some sort of reproductive loss, let me encourage you with what Martin Luther said, “Even a weak faith may lay hold of a strong Christ.” You may want to pick up Abigail’s book to discover you might not be as alone in your pain as you think.

By / May 11

Mother’s Day can be one of the most joyful days of the year. Americans will buy flowers, cards, fancy meals, and gifts in an attempt to physically show our mothers how much we care about them. But for many, it’s one of the most painful days of the year, too. Perhaps we’ve lost our mother, or our mother wasn’t what we needed her to be. Perhaps she was physically present, but emotionally absent. Or most painful of all, maybe we long for motherhood, but it’s elusive. We’re the often forgotten group—we’re the childless.

As a childless woman, Mother’s Day can be a painful reminder of what I don’t have, and what I long for. Whether your season of childlessness is temporary or permanent, whether you’ve walked through miscarriages, infertility or barrenness, remember that you’re not alone. One in 10 couples struggle with infertility, and even more have lost precious little ones—either in the womb or outside of it. It can be easy to feel alienated and forgotten on Mother’s Day, because everyone is busy celebrating, and your heart is busy breaking.

There are a few thoughts I’d like to whisper into your weary soul this Mother’s Day:

1. Cry out to the Lord: The Bible is filled with raw and emotional cries to the Lord. In many of the psalms, we see David’s honest groans, because the pain in his heart is more than he can bear alone.

“O Lord, all my longing is before you; my sighing is not hidden from you.”  Psa. 38:9

“Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.” Psa. 25:16-17

“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?” Psa. 13:1-2

The Lord knows the pain of your heart. Cry out to him. Don’t hold back in your sorrow or your suffering. Prayer is one of the greatest gifts, because it allows us to pour our weary souls into the hands of our Savior. You don’t have to clean yourself up before you pray; you can come to him upset, crying, frustrated and sad. Tears give emotion a way out, and the Scripture informs our emotions of truth. These two go hand-in-hand as we journey through life’s difficult paths.

2. Surround yourself with people who love you: Don’t walk through this day alone. Let close friends and family know that Mother’s Day is difficult. It’s okay to ask for help and tell others that you’re hurting. People don’t often know you’re hurting unless you tell them. Allow the church to wrap around you and care for your soul. Invite tender and gentle people to share in your sufferings, to love you, listen to you, sit with you while you cry and to be present. Sometimes what we need most is a hug, a listening ear, and a shoulder to cry on. It might feel difficult or uncomfortable to allow people into your grief, but the Lord gave us community for a reason. We were designed to live life together, as a band of believers, all working for the same goal—to glorify the Lord as we walk toward heaven.

It’s easy to feel like your lack of children defines you. Childlessness can be all-consuming. But if you’re a Christian, the core of your identity is rooted in Christ.

3. Stay off social media: Social media has a way of stirring up discontentment and dissatisfaction. This is especially true on a day that vividly reminds you of what you lack. Your soul will benefit greatly from a break and a breath of fresh air. Consider pushing pause on your phone for the day or even the weekend. You might think it’s no big deal, and hopping on facebook for 15 minutes to relax might seem like a good idea, but scrolling through post after post of mothers and children probably won’t do your soul any good. It’s better to err on the side of caution than to find yourself in the midst of a breakdown because you’ve seen one too many posts about babies.

4. Childlessness does not define you: It’s easy to feel like your lack of children defines you. Childlessness can be all-consuming. But if you’re a Christian, the core of your identity is rooted in Christ, not in your ability to bear babies. Fix your eyes on him, and allow your soul to be saturated in your true identity. Being God’s child should be the primary thing that defines the childless. It’s okay to grieve over the unfulfilled desire, but do so in a way that shows that your ultimate hope, joy and satisfaction is found in being God’s child, not having your own child.

And pastors, as you preach on Mother’s Day, please don’t forget the childless in your congregation. Most of life is bittersweet; we rejoice with those that rejoice and mourn with those that mourn, and Mother’s day is no different. You can be a healing balm for someone’s weary and wounded soul. The longing for parenthood is a good but often unfulfilled desire, and the words you speak can have the power to point people to the heart of our Abba Father. May the church be a safe haven for the hurting this Mother’s Day.

By / May 11

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. Here are five facts you should know about the holiday and about mothers in America:

1. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson issued a presidential proclamation that officially established the first national Mother’s Day holiday to celebrate America’s mothers. Many individual states celebrated Mother’s Day before then, but it was not until Wilson lobbied Congress in 1914 that Mother’s Day was officially set on the second Sunday of every May.

2. President Wilson established Mother’s Day after years of lobbying by the mother of the holiday, Anna Marie Jarvis and the World’s Sunday School Association. Anna Jarvis’ mother, Ann Jarvis, had attempted to establish a version of Mother’s Day during the Civil War as a time for remembrance. By the 1920s, though, Anna Jarvis became disgusted by the commercialization of the holiday. She incorporated herself as the Mother’s Day International Association, trademarked the phrases “second Sunday in May” and “Mother’s Day”, and was once arrested for disturbing the peace at a Mother’s Day carnation sale. According to her New York Times obituary, Jarvis became embittered because too many people sent their mothers a printed greeting card. As she said, “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.”

3. Based on the latest Census figures (2014), there were 43.5 million mothers between the ages of 15 and 50 in 2014. These mothers gave birth to 95.8 million children. Out of those, 3.9 million women had given birth in the past 12 months. Overall, 22.3 percent of women ages 15 to 50 in 2014 had given birth to two children. About 42.4 percent had no children, 17 percent had one, 11.7 percent had three, and about 6.8 percent had four or more.

4. In 2015, the percentage of unmarried women ages 15 to 50 who had a birth in the past 12 months was 35.7 percent. About 64.3 percent of women ages 15 to 50 who had a birth in the past 12 months were married.

5. Five mothers are mentioned by name in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-17): Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary.

By / May 10

Almost every day of our childhood, we would pull down my grandmother’s long driveway and go in for a quick visit. We, two sisters, would sit together on the narrow piano bench and peck at the black and white keys in my grandmother’s living room while Mother moved through the house—setting out pills, fixing her mother’s hair, asking questions and washing clothes. It was our weekday routine, completed with a glass of chocolate milk in her wood-paneled kitchen.

Our grandmother, Zelma, had her first open heart surgery when our mother was 16. She would suffer through three more open-heart surgeries, breast cancer, a brain hemorrhage and a subsequent one-month coma in her rather long lifetime, considering the circumstances. Her story merits a full-length book. But for every chapter in the story of my grandmother, Mother was the caretaker, the advocate, the executor.

Our mother cared faithfully for our grandmother for decades, in every way imaginable. And upon our grandmother’s death in 1999, she began caring for other family members in need. She began to look after aunts, uncles and cousins. She cleaned toilets and picked up medicines. She made notes at doctor’s appointments and called insurances companies. She brought in food and took out the trash. The houses and the people changed, but not her way of life.

You can’t google our mother and see her accolades. She doesn’t speak or write for others. She has no public platform. She doesn’t even have a Facebook account. Yet, for our lives and ministries, she has been more influential than any other person.

In the flesh, we constantly evaluate those we encounter to determine if they are worthy of our time, our investment, our money or our heart. Our mother taught us to see with different eyes and to say “yes” when the world would say “no.” In most every circumstance, the recipients of our mother’s care could not repay her in any way. As her daughters, we didn’t need a sermon, a book or a conference to teach us how to see and affirm the dignity in every person, no matter their age, ability or worldly status. It’s the message we’ve seen our entire lives, and we hope to share those lessons with you here.  

Be motivated by love

Our generation broadcasts their lives, or at least a filtered version of them. Acts of service are publicized, even glamorized, for the world to see. Our mother’s care for others was not noticed by many outside of our family, and sometimes family members didn’t realize all she had done. There were no posts of the waiting rooms she visited. She clearly didn’t serve her family for the praise of man. She served because her heart, like Christ’s, was moved to compassion. (Matt. 9:36)

It’s a lie of the devil to think a sacrificial life of serving your family isn’t “a great thing.”

This was a devastating work. There’s much pain in watching illness and age affect someone you love. We don’t know how many times she has witnessed a loved one take her last breath. It would have been easier to walk away. It would have been easier to find professionals. But again and again, she was eager to do good works, walking in when others were walking out. (Titus 2:14) Only love—for Christ and for others—compels this type of sacrifice.

Do the work in front of you

Our generation has been challenged to do “great things for God,” and that call still beats within our hearts. But it’s a lie of the devil to think a sacrificial life of serving your family isn’t “a great thing.” So often, the enemy’s tactic is to complicate the simple commands of Jesus. Well-intentioned questions like, “What is my calling?” or “Where are my talents most utilized?” can distract and delay us. Yet, Scripture is clear that we need only love others like we love ourselves (Mark 12:30-31).

What are the needs within arm’s reach? Don’t devalue or abandon the title of son or daughter, wife or husband, mother or father, niece or nephew. The “others” and the “neighbors” for Mother were those God placed in her life through family. And as those who were the recipients and witnesses of that care, that work changed our lives for eternity.

Portray the gospel

To believe the message of a Savior who laid down his life for us was not a wide chasm, because we saw it every day—in a mother who laid down her own life for us and for others in need (1 John 3:16). We believe Mother was placed within her family to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Her life pointed my family to Christ. She brought heaven to earth because she cared for people, no matter their status, the way Jesus cared for them. We were taught to not fear sacrifice, and that conviction has anchored us through many seasons of our walks with Christ.

Don’t give up

Like all children, we have seen our Mother at her best and worst. We have seen the toil of emotional difficulties and laborious work. Yet, our Mother didn’t give up. (1 Cor. 13:4-7)

After my grandmother’s coma, doctors told our mother that our grandmother would never walk again. She was even encouraged to put her mother into a long-term care facility. Instead, our recently married mother and father moved into our grandmother’s house. Every day, the two women would take walks down that long driveway. Many times, my grandmother’s body would fail her, and she would fall flat on the concrete. My mother would lift her up, wipe her skinned hands and knees, and they would start again. Painfully and slowly, Mother taught her to walk again.

It’s our prayer that like our mother, our lives would be marked by the often slow and laborious walk of faithfulness, service, humility and love—a life that Jesus first walked, and passed down to us. Though she never sought affirmation or applause for her service, this Mother’s Day, we rise up and call her “blessed” (Prov. 31).

By / May 9
By / May 23

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table (Ps. 128:3).

Recently, our young church has been filled with days of rejoicing for many mothers—Mother’s Day, hospital visits to a groundswell of precious newborns, child dedications, gender reveal parties. These are days of rich joy for many, but due to the effects of the fall (Gen. 3), they are days of deep pain for many others. The desire, longing and love to be a mother is there, and yet the olive shoots have not come.

My heart hurts for the woman who is experiencing the pain of infertility.  Infertility is a topic that people discuss very little, but I’ve read as many as 1 in 8 couples struggle with it. Infertility may not affect your family, but chances are you know and love someone it does.I understand and know the struggle because I have experienced the pain of infertility, as well.

The wait and the wondering

Every month, an eager bride excitedly waits to find out if this will be the month (finally!) she sees that beautiful little + sign. She spends her time dreaming of diapers and of the sweet little blessing God is surely going to add to her family. Be fruitful and multiply, right? Her doctor is so certain that she’s going to be able to get pregnant that she is starting to believe it, too. The thought of motherhood and babies is all too exciting, and her heart overflows with the dreams of what life will be like with children.

As the months pass and are then swallowed up into years, her doctor’s optimism starts to fade, and she is told that she will likely never conceive a baby without a miracle. She desperately tries to hang on to hope, believing she might be the exception. More time passes. Eventually, her enthusiasm and hopes fade, too, and she is met with the sorrow, shame and the extreme loneliness of it all. Questions fill her head: Who do I talk to about my heartache? Can anyone truly understand what I’m going through unless she’s experienced this herself? Why doesn’t God want me to have a baby? Is there something wrong with me? What does faith look like in my situation?

This may not be your story, but it is part of mine. The pain and shame I felt over not being able to give my husband a biological child was heart wrenching at times. It is a quiet pain that is often very lonely. But, in his timing, God does make everything beautiful. As God has worked in my heart, I can tell you that the story he is writing is our lives is full of his kindness, grace and mercy. He is good, and he can be trusted.

If you are struggling through the pain of infertility, please let me encourage you with a few ways that God has encouraged me.

  1. We must counsel our hearts according to truth. Ask yourself: What does God’s Word say about you? What does God’s Word say about him? What is true and real? According to God, your infertility does not define you—his Word does. The cross says you are loved and accepted. You are not broken, and God is good all the time.
  2. Don’t damage your friendships because you are in pain. You may be feeling hurt or jealous when you see others getting what you want. In this case, it’s a baby. Ask God to give you a heart that will rejoice with those who rejoice—one that is sincerely happy for others. And ask him for a friend who is able to weep with you as you weep (Rom. 12:15). Keep in mind that a friend loves at all times (Prov. 17:17), even if we are in pain; let us be people who give this unconditional love and who are able to receive it.
  3. Reach out to a trusted friend. Sometimes, we might be tempted to think that if we don’t talk about it, it’s like it’s not real. I kept my pain and struggle hidden for many years, and it wasn’t until I starting talking about my sadness and being honest about it that I was able to start to allow God to deal with it and find peace in him. As I confessed all that was going on in my heart, God used the words of wise women and friends to bring healing to my heart (Prov. 12:18).
  4. Jesus is our treasure. As much as we would like to think that if God would just answer our prayer for a child, we would always be happy and our longing would be satisfied, it just isn’t true. Yes, children bring joy and happiness, but they can never be the absolute focus of it without becoming idols. Jesus is meant for that place in our hearts and our lives. He must be the ultimate treasure of our hearts. Sometimes in his kindness, God allows us to continue without the thing we so desire because with it, we might not see Him; but, in our pain and longing our hearts might be turned to him.

Tim Keller says, “You’ll never realize God is all you need until God is all you have.” My prayer for you if you’re struggling through the pain of infertility is that you allow this time of longing for what God has not given you to draw you nearer to him. Our circumstances may not change, but we can allow God to change us, grow us and bear fruit in him.

By / May 5

My first pregnancy didn’t end the way I would have hoped or desired. I entered the doctor’s office, prepared to hear the heartbeat of my growing child, only to be told that our child had stopped growing, and there was no heartbeat to be found. That was a devastating day. What I couldn’t have been prepared for at that time was that I would experience the pain of miscarriage three additional times. After having four miscarriages, I understand that Mother’s Day may be a painful experience for many women.

Author and blogger, Jessalyn Hutto, also understands the pain of miscarriage and has written a book to help encourage the faith of those who have experienced it. In this interview, she gives insight for how she’s cared for others, encouragement to those struggling and wisdom for how we can remember those mothers who have lost their children.

Trillia Newbell: You have, unfortunately, endured miscarriages. Could you tell us about that?

Jessalyn Hutto: My husband and I have lost two children through miscarriage. Our first pregnancy (in 2008) ended in an early miscarriage at eight weeks gestation, and a second miscarriage (a late miscarriage at 17 weeks gestation) took the life of our fourth baby in 2011.

TN: What made you decide to write about your experience in Inheritance of Tears: Trusting the Lord of Life When Death Visits the Womb?

JH: I began blogging about miscarriage shortly after we lost our daughter, Anastasia. At that point, we had been blessed with two darling little boys, but had also endured the painful loss of two babies in the womb. It had become obvious that healthy, uneventful pregnancies were not things that I could take for granted. Having a deep passion for theology and how it applies to my everyday life, I began writing about my own struggle to trust God in the midst of such great loss, and most specifically, how to trust him with the possibility of losing more babies in the future. My hope was that these posts would bless other women out there who were experiencing similar trials—women who were forced to deal with their view of God’s sovereignty and goodness in the midst of such terrible providences.

Time and time again, women would write in to me, explaining that they had stumbled upon my blog as they were searching for hope in the midst of their miscarriages. Of course, in a sense, the popularity of these posts did not surprise me. After losing babies myself, I became aware of the startling frequency at which miscarriages occur among women. It seemed as though everywhere I looked, women were suffering from the pain of losing their unborn babies, infertility and even stillbirths.

What did surprise me, however, was the silence that seemed to surround these topics on the part of the church. Rarely were these particular tragedies—which are so strikingly common—being addressed by pastors or women’s ministries. Suffering women simply were not getting the biblical counsel they desperately need. Instead, as they suffered in isolation, they would often turn to the internet for answers and comfort. But much of what they would find there focused on the emotional aspects of losing a baby rather than on how the truth of God’s Word applied to their loss. They were receiving empathy from the articles they were reading, but not necessarily the hope that could be found in the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.

Rather than being put off by the theological explanations I was offering on my blog, women were being encouraged and finding greater peace in the midst of their suffering. I became convinced that the church was in desperate need of a theologically driven—yet at the same time sensitive—work on the topic of miscarriage, both for the women who suffer and for those who desire to minister well to them. When Cruciform offered me that exact opportunity, I enthusiastically said, “Yes!”

TN: Miscarriage seems more common than we think. Have you found this to be true?

JH: One of the greatest blessings God has given to me as a result of my miscarriages has been the opportunity to minister to the many women who are called to walk through this same terrible trial. Because of my own experiences of loss, I’ve had the privilege of being allowed to grieve alongside dear friends, church members and even family as they’ve had to walk the same path of suffering. In fact, while I was in the process of writing Inheritance of Tears, three of my close friends were affected by miscarriage. Truthfully, it seems that with this particular trial there are always opportunities to share the hope of the gospel with those who are suffering. Miscarriages are common, and the women who suffer from them need their friends and family members to be equipped to serve them in their time of need.

TN: Do you find that many women have a difficult time talking about their experience?

JH: Yes and no. In a sense, miscarriage is a very intimate topic and therefore, one that is difficult to speak about. It can be hard for a woman to express the debilitating grief she feels for the death of her child when the ones seeking to comfort her may not have even known that the child existed. Often, you have to inform others about your baby’s existence as you simultaneously inform them about his or her death. This can be a very difficult thing to do.

Women can also find it hard to share with others how deeply they are impacted by the loss of their unborn children. Because of the “invisible” nature of her loss to the outside world, a woman who miscarries can be tempted to feel guilty for making such a big deal about it. While others may think that she is healing and coping well after her loss, in reality she may still be experiencing profound grief and even depression. Often these women are tempted to feel guilty or ashamed for bringing up their continuing pain, assuming that others don’t want to hear about her ongoing struggle.

In reality, however, I believe that women who suffer from miscarriage are desperate for a kind, listening ear. They long to be able to have their loss validated by someone who will recognize their miscarriage for what it truly is: the death of a child. Having someone who will do that, and then walk alongside them in their grief as they seek to trust the Lord with such a difficult providence, is an incredible gift.

TN: You have kids now. How did you fight the temptation to fear another loss once you were pregnant again?

JH: We have been incredibly blessed to have four children (three boys and one girl). With each of their pregnancies, I encountered the debilitating fear of losing them. Having experienced a miscarriage with my first pregnancy, I knew with great clarity just how fragile each of the tiny lives I carried within my womb were. Then, after miscarrying again in the second trimester (the point in your pregnancy when everything is “supposed” to be smooth sailing), I was confronted with the complete unpredictability of God’s providence.

Each and every time I carried a child within me, I had to make a conscious decision to submit myself to his will, no matter what that would be. This does not mean that I did not fear. To the contrary: this was a huge struggle for me, especially after our second trimester miscarriage. But the Lord was gracious to me during those times, teaching me to be open with him about my fears (as though he couldn’t see them already!), confessing them and asking him to replace them with the faith to trust his goodness, even when I did not understand his purposes.

I also found Jesus to be all the sweeter to me in those moments (days and weeks, even!) of fear. I experienced great comfort in recounting the terrible moments our Savior spent in the garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion. There in the garden, Jesus sweat great droplets of blood at the mere thought of the tortures before him. He even asked his Father to remove the cup of suffering he was sent to endure, but in the end submitted himself to his Father’s perfect will. This account from God’s Word was a continual reminder of his ability to tenderly care for me in my moments of fear. He knew the struggle I was going through; he knew what it was like to dread the next day.

What a glorious blessing to know that the one who created the heavens and the earth understood the complicated emotions surging through me. What an example I had in him as I sought to submit myself to my heavenly Father’s will—whether that meant a healthy pregnancy or another miscarriage.

TN: There’s an unexpected gift in trials—we get to comfort with the comfort we’ve received. If you were sitting across the table from a woman who has just experienced a miscarriage, how might you comfort her?

JH: Initially, the most important thing I want to convey to a woman who has miscarried is that her pain has merit. What I mean by this is that I want her to know that what has happened to her truly is as terrible as it feels. I don’t want her to feel burdened to “get over” her loss quickly simply because it is hard for those around her to understand. She has lost a child—death has robbed her of one of the sweetest gifts we can experience in this life! —and that is worth mourning. The pain she is experiencing is justified, and I want her to know that I am willing to walk through those dark valleys with her.

However, we will not do that without hope, because even in the valley of death, we have a good Shepherd, who loves us and cares for us. This good Shepherd sacrificed his life for us, so that such terrible experiences of suffering, like miscarriage, would one day be done away with. Through his substitutionary death on the cross and victorious resurrection, we are assured of a day when pain and suffering will be no more.

Because of this wonderful truth, I will never be afraid to acknowledge the real and deep suffering a woman encounters when she miscarries, but I will also confidently and joyfully point her to the One who came to earth to wage war against the root of all her suffering: sin. He came and he conquered. Hallelujah!

TN: How might you comfort a woman who has experienced several miscarriages?

JH: I think the most important thing to remember when ministering to a woman who continues to struggle with miscarriages and/or infertility is to not forget about her. It can be so easy to become numb to her pain when you are not the one experiencing it—especially when it continues to happen time and again.

Each miscarriage must be treated with the same gravity as the first, and there must be an understanding of the emotional trauma that is building in her soul each time she loses a child or the pregnancy test comes back negative. It isn’t routine for her; it is heart breaking, each and every time. She needs your constant support and prayers.

In a similar vein, I would add that there is a great temptation to become fearful for a woman when she has miscarried several times and then becomes pregnant again. This is completely understandable because it is a scary thing to know how fragile the gift of pregnancy is. However, you must endeavor to be joyful with her when she becomes pregnant, welcoming the new life as you would any other child, praying for his or her safety, and caring for her as she develops the usual pregnancy symptoms. She needs to know that people love her children and do not feel as though she is burdening them when she announces each new pregnancy.

It is not wrong to acknowledge the very real “risk” of miscarriage. In fact, it is good to understand the fears that are surely surging through her heart. Acknowledge them and pray for courage, but at the same time offer thanks to God with her, for the new life blossoming within her womb. Be the person she looks forward to sharing the news with every time because she knows you will be happy for her.

TN: What are ways that we can encourage and comfort husbands who endure this trial?

JH: I think it is important to understand that husbands are in a very difficult position when their wives miscarry. They, too, experience intense grief when their babies die, but at the same time, they know that their wives are grappling with the loss on a whole other level. These men need to grieve themselves, but are simultaneously seeking to comfort their distraught wives. They need good, faithful friends who will walk alongside them, check in on them consistently, pray with them and simply listen to them as they grapple with the deep emotions and questions they are confronted with at the loss of their children.


God gives us a call to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. We have an opportunity this week to rightly rejoice with those mothers who serve their children day and night. Let us also remember the ones who long for the day they will get to hold a child and call them their own. This Mother’s Day, let’s appropriately rejoice with all mothers while also remembering the ones who have lost their children.

By / May 8

For many women, Mother’s Day is a happy time—a time to be recognized and praised by husbands and a day when “her children rise and called her blessed.” It’s a day of reflection and gratitude for the woman who basks in the gift of motherhood.

Yet, for other women, Mother’s Day is painful. It’s a day that serves as a reminder of what never was or never will be. Most of these women walk through the valley of infertility or have suffered at the hands of miscarriage.

For others that fall into this category, this day is painful because they haven’t had the chance to become a mother—simply because they would like to have married years ago, and there is no suitor in sight.

Thankfully, the church is having conversations that breed sensitivity toward the women who fall into these categories. And that is great news.

But there is another group of women who find Mother’s Day to be particularly difficult, or at the very least, awkward. They are a relatively silent, yet growing number of women.

They are stepmothers.

My friend and stepfamily expert Laura Petherbridge explains this quite plainly: “Mother’s Day can be such a painful day for a stepmother, because she has all of the hard work associated with the mother role—helping with homework, cooking, carpooling, financial strain—but doesn’t have the ‘perks,’ like love, loyalty and devotion that come along with being a biological mom.”

In my seven-year experience as a stepmom, Mother’s Day isn’t as much painful as it is awkward. For example, when someone wishes me a happy Mother’s Day, I am torn between offering a simple “thank you” and going into a full blown explanation of my situation.

After all, there is nothing simple about being a stepmom.

The Mother’s Day church service can get particularly awkward for those of us stepmoms who do not have any children of our own. On that particular morning, well meaning pastors ask all mothers to stand and be recognized.

Moments like this put us in a quandary: If we stand, we feel like frauds because we are not real moms. If we stay seated, we feel guilty because it may send the message to our husbands—and to others in the congregation—that we don’t want to claim our stepchildren.

I am thankful to have positives in my situation that are not present in other stepfamilies. I have a good relationship with my teenaged stepsons. And their mother and I don’t just get along; we have developed a friendship over the years. I am grateful for such blessings.

However, stepfamily life—even mine—is still complicated. Here are some ways the church can minister to stepmoms (and stepfamilies, in general) on Mother’s Day—and beyond.

1. Acknowledge our roles

This can vary from church to church, but I have found that there are people who are afraid of saying “stepmom” or “stepdad.” They just don’t know what to do with us. But we live in a fallen world where people divorce and people die. Don’t be afraid to use honest language, as long as it doesn’t tear down or destroy.

Also, please understand that you may get a complicated answer when you ask, “How many kids do you have?” When I get that question, my answer is, “I have two stepsons.” Most stepmoms don’t have an answer that tidy, as many of them brought children of their own into the marriage. And some of those have had additional children with their current spouse.

In acknowledging their role, there must be understanding as you learn about the stepfamilies in your church. There are no simple answers, because—again—there is nothing simple about stepfamily dynamics.

2. Sympathize with our struggles

As you grow to understand the stepfamilies in your church, you can minister to them by sympathizing with their struggles.

Stepfamilies have unique challenges. One example of this is holidays. Holidays are often the most stressful times in the life of a stepfamily. For the biological parent, this is especially difficult because they are without their children, depending on the sharing arrangements. And if the blended family couple does not have other family in their lives, or nearby, these times can prove especially lonely.

By getting to know the stepfamilies in your church, you have a window into struggles like this one. And in doing so, the opportunity to minister presents itself. Perhaps there is a lonely blended family couple in your church without their kids at the holidays that could benefit from an invitation to your home this Thanksgiving or Christmas.

3. Include us, don’t single us out

Those of us who are in Christ, and who are also stepparents, possess spiritual gifts just like married couples in a traditional family.

The tendency is to segregate according to life stage. When it comes to church life, I have observed that stepparents get similar treatment as singles. Singles are often relegated to their own exclusive singles ministry, but they have so much to bring to the table when it comes to ministry and serving alongside married adults, children, seniors and students.

While I believe that there should be targeted ministry to stepfamilies within the church, we should not be singled out when it comes to serving. We are members of the Body of Christ, and we have a role to play.

Along the way, we will probably stumble upon someone else who is struggling through stepfamily life, and through our experiences, “we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor. 1:4).