By / May 6

This Sunday, you will not be far from my thoughts, dear one.

I’ll wake early to my son’s voice, “Mommy? Moooooommmmy!” and my heart will spill over with joy as I welcome my third Mother’s Day. But mixed with that joy will be a keen awareness that you are still waiting. Longing. Aching.

With every fiber of your being you long to be a mom. You were made for motherhood, and everything within you cries out against your barrenness.

I remember.

I was 35 when I gave birth to my first (and only) child. If I’d scripted the story of my life, I would have had my first at 22 (he’d be 16 now) and at least two or three children after that. But instead, my fruitful years were spent celebrating everyone else’s babies—one birth announcement and baby shower after another. 

Whatever could I do with empty hands that were made to hold children?

God met me in my emptiness with strong words that forever changed me. He sang Isaiah 54 over my longings, and as I clung to this Scripture through those waiting years, its truths were engraved into the marrow of my soul.

Sing, O barren one, who did not bear;
break forth into singing and cry aloud,
you who have not been in labor.

For the children of the desolate one will be more
than the children of her who is married, says the Lord.

Could my childless life truly be as rich and full as my friends who had children? Could I sit through yet another baby shower or Mother’s Day assured of some glorious purpose in my pain? 

God said so, right there in the pages of Scripture—so I took him at his Word.

I poured out my life and love into my students and teenage and college-age girls. Over the course of my single years, I opened up my heart and home, discipling countless women, counseling kids in crisis and leading Bible studies where God showed up in spectacular ways.

I wasn’t always faithful to invest well, and sometimes my sorrow and longing overshadowed my ministries, but by God’s grace I began to feel the weighty truth of Isaiah 54: although I was not yet a mother, I had dozens of spiritual children. I felt rich…unspeakably, filthy rich.

But there was yet another aspect of Isaiah 54, a far scarier aspect that compelled my heart to continue hoping for children of my own. While I felt wealthy with spiritual children, the longing for marriage and motherhood wouldn’t go away. I didn’t quite know what to do with these words:

Enlarge the place of your tent,
and let the curtains of your
habitations be stretched out;
do not hold back;
lengthen your cords and
strengthen your stakes.

For you will spread abroad
to the right and to the left,
and your offspring will possess the nations…

Although God wasn’t signing on the dotted line, promising to give me my own flesh-and-blood, I wanted my heart to be full of faith that he could. I wanted to hope past the taunting tick-tock of my biological clock. I wanted to believe that with just one word he could turn my barrenness into fruitfulness as he had for Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, Ruth and Elizabeth. 

Hope is scary, but it is our lifeblood.

So I fought to cultivate hope first and foremost in him, and then a lesser hope that he would one day fulfill the longings of my heart for children.

The years passed by, and while I continued to bear spiritual children, marriage and motherhood still eluded me.

Isaiah 54 sustained me again and again:

Fear not,
for you will not be ashamed;
be not confounded,
for you will not be disgraced;

For you will forget the shame of your youth,
and the reproach of your widowhood [singleness, barrenness]
you will remember no more.

For your Maker is your Husband,
the Lord of hosts is His name…

I have a friend who waited till she was 41 to become a mother. I have other friends who continue to wait, well into their 30s, 40s and even 50s. I had a lesser wait at 35. But those lessons learned while sitting in church every Mother’s Day, as long-stemmed roses passed me by and I sat alone while seemingly every other woman stood to be appreciated—those lessons will never be forgotten. 

And so this weekend, I’m thinking of you, dear sister. Although we may never meet on this side of eternity, I’m praying that your Maker will grant you hope in himself, faith that he can do the impossible, and a quiver-full of spiritual children.

Sing, O barren one…for you are precious and fruitful and honored in his eyes.

This was originally published here.

By / May 9

Several of my friends have suffered miscarriages. They endure the anguish of feeling their bodies begin to change to make room for a growing baby only to lose the child. I, too, have experienced it—four times. At first we thought perhaps I had a problem with fertility. It took us a year to get pregnant and then seven weeks to lose the baby. I got pregnant quickly again and miscarried at ten weeks. Eventually I had a sweet baby boy. After him I miscarried two more times and then had my girl.

This Mother's Day may come as yet another reminder to women everywhere that they don't have something they desire. Another year of miscarriages, infertility or waiting for a child through the adoption process. Whatever the unfulfilled desire, it tugs at your heart and plagues your mind.

When I thought about writing this article, I recalled a friend who asked me for advice. So instead of an article, I wrote a note to my friends and anyone else God may want to read in on the conversation. So I pray you would be blessed by this note as well.

Dear Friend,

I am so sorry for your wait. It is hard. I'm not going to pretend it isn't. I'm not going to tell you that everything will be better if you take these five steps. The only thing I know for sure is that Christ loves you. He really does sympathize with you. You can read God's words to you in Hebrews: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15-16).

I know you've probably seen this verse many times, but I think God has a lot to say to you in these verses. He is reminding you that he isn't far-off. He has entered into the ugly and hard places that you see your heart going as you struggle with worry or anxiety or fear or anger. He knows it. He knows your temptation. Jesus reminds you that he walked this earth perfectly for you. And in your weakness he invites you to draw near to him. He wants to comfort you and uphold you with his righteous right hand. Come to him, weary friend, and receive grace and peace and rest. This is your time of need. Mother's Day is your time of need, and he does not turn away from you during your time of need; he wants you to find grace to help.

Friend, I pray that you would receive his good grace today. As you look to Mother's Day know that he has you in mind and intercedes even now on your behalf.  “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18).

Read the original article here.

By / May 6

Mother’s Day is a particularly sensitive time in many congregations, and pastors and church leaders often don’t even know it. This is true even in congregations that don’t focus the entire service around the event as if it were a feast day on the church’s liturgical calendar. Infertile women, and often their husbands, are still often grieving in the shadows.

It is good and right to honor mothers. The Bible calls us to do so. Jesus does so with his own mother. We must recognize though that many infertile women find this day almost unbearable. This is not because these women are (necessarily) bitter or covetous or envious. The day is simply a reminder of unfulfilled longings–longings that are good.

Some pastors, commendably, mention in their sermons and prayers on this day those who want to be mothers but who have not had their prayers answered. Some recognize those who are mothers not to children, but to the rest of the congregation as they disciple spiritual daughters in the faith. This is more than a “shout-out” to those who don’t have children. It is a call to the congregation to rejoice in those who “mother” the church with wisdom, and it’s a call to the church to remember those who long desperately to hear “Mama” directed at them.

What if pastors and church leaders were to set aside a day for prayer for children for the infertile?

In too many churches ministry to infertile couples is relegated to support groups that meet in the church basement during the week, under cover of darkness. Now it’s true that infertile couples need each other. The time of prayer and counsel with people in similar circumstances can be helfpul.

But this alone can contribute to the sense of isolation and even shame experienced by those hurting in this way. Moreover, if the only time one talks about infertility is in a room with those who are currently infertile, one is probably going to frame the situation in rather hopeless terms.

In fact, almost every congregation is filled with previously infertile people, including lots and lots who were told by medical professionals that they would never have children! Most of those (most of us, I should say) who fit into that category don’t really talk about it much because they simply don’t think of themselves in those terms. The baby or babies are here, and the pain of the infertility has subsided. Infertile couples need to see others who were once where they are, but who have been granted the blessing they seek.

What if, at the end of a service, the pastor called any person or couple who wanted prayer for children to come forward and then asked others in the congregation to gather around them and pray? Not every person grappling with infertility will do this publicly, and that’s all right. But many will. And even those too embarrassed to come forward will be encouraged by a church willing to pray for those hurting this way. The pastor could pray for God’s gift of children for these couples, either through biological procreation or through adoption, whichever the Lord should desire in each case.

Regardless of how you do it, remember the infertile as the world around us celebrates motherhood. The Proverbs 31 woman needs our attention, but the 1 Samuel 1 woman does too.

Read the original post here.