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.



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.

Yes. No. Wait.

“Does God answer prayers? Does He really? I’ve been praying for many years for a child, and it’s taking FOREVER. I’m trusting you, God, and I’m ready for children. Please, Lord, if it be Your will.”img_8280

Dear sister in Christ, I’ve been there. For many-a-year I prayed and prayed that God would give children to my husband and me. In my sin-sick mind, I just knew that His answer would be YES…immediately. That was not to be the case. With the help of some medication to boost the proper hormones, our daughter was born. Thanks be to God! He had given a YES to our prayers.

A couple of years later we hoped to add to our little family again. This was not to be the case, though. After multiple appointments, my doctor suggested IVF. I was firmly against the procedure. That seemed like a strong NO to our prayer. It took some time for my husband and me to pursue adoption. There was so much to consider: change in family structure, the wait-time, the finances for adoption, the mental adjustments for everybody. After much prayer, we decided to try the adoption process, even though there were no guarantees.

The paperwork was huge, but we pressed on. We were told that the entire process for adopting a child from China would last 13-14 months. Hooray! We could wait that amount of time. Perhaps this was another YES to prayers. The process would take much longer than 14 months. The months stretched to years, many years. Could this be a WAIT from God? During the interim, we were given permission to try a domestic adoption as well. This seemed agreeable to us. After completing even more paperwork, our profile was circulated among pregnant moms. Nobody seemed interested in us. Was this to be another NO to our prayers? Our two-year commitment to that program expired, and we did not renew our file. Still we waited.

After seven long years of praying and mourning, God answered our prayers with a YES. On this day, five years ago, we received our referral for our second daughter! Prayers of thanksgiving and tears abounded!

We were informed that we would be traveling a few short months later. Due to several hiccups, our trip to receive our little girl occurred more like five months later. It turned out to be a time of more waiting. God used this time to prepare ourselves, our families, and our church family for the joys that were to come.

Dear sister, I share these things with you, not to teach you that God will answer your prayers in the way that you want. Rather, I want you to know that God answers your prayers in the way that He deems best. Our desires do not always line up with God’s plans for us, and we desperately would like to be the ones who run the show. Not so. God knows our needs and provides in the best ways possible. He really does.

During our family prayer time this morning, we sang the hymn “What God Ordains Is Always Good.” The words are comforting and encouraging. I commend them to you this day.

What God ordains is always good:
His will is just and holy.
As He directs my life for me,
I follow meek and lowly.
My God indeed In every need
Knows well how He will shield me;
To Him, then, I will yield me.

Lutheran Service Book 760:1

“Porous Boundaries”

In his article “Why the Church Needs the Infertile Couple” (Christianity Today, May 2017), Matthew Lee Anderson openly addresses the well-meaning but oft-misplaced correlation the Church makes between the barren and adoption:

“Within the church, the pressure to have children is compounded by the rapidly expanding adoption movement. The correlation of infertility and God’s calling to adopt is sometimes left implied, but is more frequently overt and direct. But as writer Kevin White has observed, there is no more good that needs doing in this world than each of us are commanded to accomplish. The general exhortation to love one’s neighbor may sometimes require a couple to adopt, but sometimes it may not; infertility does not on its own make adoption obligatory. In fact, infertile couples might be uniquely at risk of treating adopted children as a means of fulfilling their own frustrated desires for a biological child, reducing them to an instrument of the parents’ happiness. It is tempting to view adoption as a path toward alleviating our own suffering and emptiness, rather than an expression of charity toward the child. In its ideal form, the call to adopt expands the horizons of a couple’s imaginations for their lives. Yet in its institutionalized expression, it risks reducing adoption to an obligation upon the infertile, which would undermine its gratuitous character.

Which is not to say that those who choose medical intervention or adoption are selfish. By no means! But like any good, they can tempt toward idolatry, transforming human life and God’s graciousness from a gift to an earned reward for years of hard work and pain. 

The church might want to resist the pressure for marriages to have children through any means possible, and hold on instead to infertility as a unique and irreplaceable witness within its inner life. It is easy to look at such sadness and think that if we can avoid it, we are best off doing so. But the church might lose something crucial if there are no childless marriages in our midst. That we can make children through IVF does not entail that we should. But widespread acceptance of IVF means that we risk forgetting both the struggles of permanent barrenness and its unique virtues. The special vocation of the infertile means recalling the church to goods that our technologically sophisticated world has forgotten and obscured.”

Anderson goes on to explain that barren marriages give testimony to the true Source of life:

“One aspect of the vocation of the infertile is that the frustrated willingness to bear children reminds the church that our children are gifts from Providence. The glad assumption of sorrow and laments – a paradoxical, but necessary form of life – by those who are barren testifies within the church (and beyond) that the power to make new life comes from God and not from ourselves. Children are not made; they are given. Man and woman throw themselves upon the grace of fate in trying to bring a child into the world. The emergence of new human life is a miracle, as the infertile well know.”

Yes, we do.

Anderson also explains that the “porous boundaries” of the barren’s paternal and maternal love “take their form beyond the walls of the family” and “allow for strangers and neighbors to receive gifts they would not know otherwise.”

“[I]nfertile couples help expand the scope of familial love. Like adoptive couples, their ongoing hope bears witness to the church that the most basic character of parenthood is not biological. But unlike adoptive couples, the infertile must extend their marital and parental love outside the family itself. Maternal and paternal love are not given only to mothers and fathers, biological or otherwise. They are the mature form of married love, and thus are available to any couple, fertile or not. The glory of the union of man and woman can be given to others through non-biological, non-procreative means.”

Even as we wait on the Lord for children of our own, sisters, let us not neglect our God-given “porous boundaries.”

Anderson, Matthew Lee. “Why the Church Needs the Infertile Couple.Christianity Today. May 2017: 49-52.

Dear Mothers

Do you know what I like to hear?

I like to hear the sound of your children crying and fussing in church. It’s not that I want you to be having a hard time in the pew. It’s that I am so thankful you are in the pew, period. Your children may be throwing an unholy fit on Sunday morning, but you are doing holy work in parenting and teaching and disciplining your children. Keep coming, even though they cry. Keep heeding Christ’s call to “let the little children come to Me,” and know that you are not alone. I may be childless, but I am praying for you and rooting for you and, yes, admiring you.

Do you know what I like to see?

I like to see your children in restaurants and libraries and concert halls and museums. I don’t mind when they knock over their milk glass or take too long in the bathroom stall or read too loudly in the fiction aisle or clap inappropriately in the middle of the Et in Terra Pax movement of Bach’s B Minor Mass or giggle at a Picasso. How else will they be able to learn and understand and appreciate and interpret the arts if they are never exposed to them? You are serving all of us when you take your children to these sanctuaries of beauty, and it is magic watching you apply measured instruction to the curious eyes, noses, tongues, hands, and hearts of your children. If I can be of any help, please ask.

Do you know what I like to hope?

I like to hope that I will someday be given the chance to mother children like you. But as I wait on the Lord, I am comforted by the sight and sound of your children. They remind me that your vocation, though blessed, is nothing for me to covet. You have your own challenges and sorrows and burdens to carry each day, and my empty hands have been made to help you.

I am so thankful that God has given us to each other.

Happy Mother’s Day.



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