Author: Katie Schuermann

I believe the Holy Scriptures to be the inerrant Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit and fulfilled in Christ Jesus, our risen Lord and Savior. Therefore, I have faith that children are exactly what God tells us they are in His Word: a heritage to receive from Him. Children are not a prize for me to earn, a commodity for me to demand, nor an idol for me to worship. They are a gift which my Heavenly Father only has the privilege to bestow and to withhold. If God makes me a mother, then I can receive His good gift of a child with all joy and confidence in His love for me. If God does not make me a mother, then I can still know with all joy and confidence that God loves me completely in His perfect gift of the Child Jesus whose sacrifice on the cross atoned for my sin and reconciled me to my Heavenly Father. I am God’s own child, purchased and won by the blood of Jesus, and God promises in His Word that He will work all things - even my barrenness - for my eternal good. For this reason, I can in faith confess that my barrenness is a blessing.



I was talking with my friend about adoption and the pain of not getting what you want and the guilt of not achieving what the world tells you others need and the sting of advanced maternal childlessness and the joy of knowing that God works all things for good and the peace of being forgiven in Christ Jesus of my covetousness and the blessed release that comes with trusting in God’s wise giving and not-giving of the gift of children when my friend put her hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye, and said the most loving, encouraging thing:

“God is blessing you today.”

Not “your time is coming” or “it will soon work out for you” or “God will bless you someday with a child” or some other false promise or platitude.

No, my friend told me the truth from God’s Word that He is blessing me today, even in my barrenness.

And my faith, God’s precious gift to me, responded to that promise, and I rejoiced!

Though devils chide

She waited in line for thirty minutes to get her book signed.

“I just want you to know,” she murmured, stepping to the front of the line and handing me her book, “that I understand. You know.”

I did know, and her empathy comforted me. I set down my pen and took her hand in mine. In that moment, I didn’t feel so alone in my barrenness.

“Though we were able to adopt.”

It’s only joy when a woman in her seventies tells me this. I know that she is neither trumpeting her gift nor exhorting my empty nest. She is simply telling her story, often after years of self-induced silence. “God be praised!” I smiled.

She shook her head swiftly, silencing my exuberance. “It didn’t turn out well.”

I staid my lips. I had heard similar stories from mothers across the country, but similarities are not what matter most in these moments. What matters most is listening to and bearing this particular mother’s pain.

“Twins. We adopted twins. One committed suicide–”

Lord, have mercy.

“–the other…well, the other doesn’t…visit us anymore.”

I felt her next words coming before they left her lips. I hear them often. They are the Song of Sarah.

“Maybe I wasn’t supposed to have children. Maybe I shouldn’t have pushed…you know…maybe God never wanted me to adopt.”

“That’s a lie from Satan.”

She pressed her lips together. “I know. But…”

“God gave you the gift of children through adoption. That’s the truth. You mothered the children God gave you. There’s no promise that any child — birthed or adopted — will turn out the way we expect. We love them and raise them in the Faith, because that is what God commands parents to do. That’s what you did. That’s all any of us can do.”


“We trust in the Lord’s mercy in all things.”

Me in my childlessness, and she in hers.

I signed her book, and we parted ways.



God with Us


My mom does something really nice. She sits on the edge of the world with me, both literally and figuratively.

She, who is uncomfortable in high places, hikes to the cliff of my choice — usually the nearest, rough-hewn, dangerous place to which perpetual grief has pushed me — and shares my rock.

Those moments are un-rushed. We don’t talk much. We sit and look and listen and be. I sometimes meet a sob at the end of every breath, but other times my lungs are too busy handling the clean fragrance of juniper berries to bother with anything else.

But Barrenness, my tethered companion, is on that rock, too, and my mom knows it. She wisely never tries to push it over the ledge, for she knows it would take me with it. No, she let’s us both remain, and she stays with us for as long as we want to sit there.

My dad does something really nice, too. He sits with me until the pain goes away.

One summer afternoon my insides throbbed and twisted and turned with the force of a hurricane, and I sat doubled over in pain for hours. My dad led me out onto the front step — there was more privacy outside than in that day — and weathered every minute of the storm by my side. He never said a word but offered me his arm to squeeze through the violent gusts. He was my lighthouse and my harbor, a silent, unmoving, hopeful presence amidst the raging tempest.

My parents serve as masks of God to me in my suffering. They sit with me and wait with me and bear with me, preaching to me with their presence that God, indeed, sits with me and waits with me and bears with me in my suffering, too. They are icons of God’s promise never to leave me nor forsake me, beautiful illustrations of Emmanuel, “God with us.”

I try to remember this whenever I am given the opportunity to sit with someone else in her suffering.

Unto Us


Two years ago, my husband gave me this icon for my birthday. At the time, I thought it a sweet gift but highly unseasonal. I’m a summer baby, after all, and it would be a full four months before Christmas came around again.

Still, I displayed the gift on our dining room buffet all through autumn, and I am so glad I did. Because one blustery day, I glanced up from my supper plate and saw the icon with eyes afresh. I looked past the star of wonder and the Christmas red and the Marian blue and saw only the words,

Unto Us a Child Is Born.

I couldn’t swallow my food for the lump in my throat.

I have read those words a hundred times and not just on the icon. All my Baptized life, I have known Isaiah‘s prophecy, and I am blessed to believe it. But not always have I known the prophecy as a barren woman.

Unto us.

Not just unto Mary and Joseph and Bethlehem and Israel, but unto us — me and my husband. A Child is born unto us, the barren couple.

The thing we’ve never known — the happy news we’ve never been able to trumpet to our family and friends — has been ours to share all along: Unto us a child is born! It’s a boy, and His name is Jesus. And He is born unto you, as well.

I now proudly display our happy birth announcement all year round.

Sing for Joy

I have been reading David Petersen’s God With Us this Advent. His sermon for the Thursday of Advent 2 is based off of Luke 1:68-79, the song Zechariah sang after his post-menopausal wife gave birth to a son and named him John. Pastor Petersen writes this about the event:

“That old priest, Zechariah, saw in the old lady’s arms his son, a miracle born out of time, circumcised into the promise made to Abraham. He had no expectation to ever play with his grandchildren or see his son grow into adulthood, but he sang for joy nonetheless. Zechariah was passing on, was no longer needed at the temple. His son came ushering in the end of the temple and the Levitical priesthood. So Zechariah sang for joy not because he had a baby when he was old but because he had a Messiah and the temple service was fulfilled and old age and death were not the end.” (God With Us, 35)

You may have no expectation of ever playing with your grandchildren. You may be passing on and no longer needed.

But you have a Messiah.

Old age and barrenness are not the end.

Zechariah’s hope is your hope.

Sing for joy.


Born for You


My routine is identical every year.

I watch the last child leave the church — the first Christmas Eve service rehearsal officially in the books — then I drive home, unlock the front door, set my purse and music down on the front entryway bench, walk to the living room, lower myself onto the couch, and cry.

I usually cry for the entire afternoon.

It’s not that I am unhappy. It is that I am sad-happy.

So many hugs. So many songs. So many curious queries. So many eager entreaties for personal attention. So many little heads turned toward mine for affirmation. So many children, and none of them mine and all of them mine.

My barren heart overdoses on the sweet stimulation, and it comes out as salt water on my pillow. Grief is strange that way. It’s triggered by happiness. To be loved stirs up memories of loves lost. So many children, but none of them from my home. None of them in my home.

This year, the tears started long before any of us left the church.

“Christ the child was born for you!” the children sang into my face. The words entered my ear but landed in my heart. “Christ the child was born for you!”

The final chord faded, and the children — my children — stared openly at my red cheeks, my wet eyes. One of them giggled nervously.

“It’s okay,” I reassured, wiping at the river. I tried to think of anything but the present moment. It wasn’t time to commit to the annual cry. Not just yet. I took a deep breath. “Do you realize what you just sang to me? Those words are so comforting. Jesus was born for me! He is born for you! Thank you for comforting me with your song.”

The children simply watched, mystified.

“I will try not to cry when you sing on Christmas Eve,” I winked, still wiping, “but I might. This song comforts me, and I sometimes cry when I am happy.”

One boy scrunched up his nose. “People cry when they’re happy?”

“Adults do,” I said. “At least, some of them.”


No one was giggling anymore. Everyone was listening.

“I think,” I started, “it’s because adults have known a bit of sadness in their life, so when they hear something comforting, it relieves them of their sadness. Crying is a way of relieving sadness. It is a way of being happy.”

It could be explained better, I think, but the children took my answer in stride. They usually do.

We sang some more songs. We practiced some more notes. Before the children left, some of them waited in line at the piano to tell me some of their wishes, to confide in me some of their hopes, to cry onto my shoulder some of their own sadnesses, and to hug my heart close to theirs.

Such sweet stimulation. Such sad-happiness.

I cried the rest of the day.