It’s tiring, isn’t it?

  • reading another failed pregnancy test
  • keeping calm as a new grandma asks when you’re going to start a family
  • reading the sixth birth announcement of the family down the street
  • watching other people’s children play in the snow
  • hearing your friends announce that they are adopting a child

These situations are so difficult. Why should that be? I want to say that I’m happy for those people, but sometimes I’m just not. I do my best to smile for the new parents and rejoice with the grandparents, but it’s no cake-walk. Sometimes it’s downright hard to be happy for those people. I fully realize that it’s a time to celebrate, for children are blessings from the Lord. However, when those blessings come to others and not to me…. Well, it pains me to be joyful because I want those blessings FOR ME.

imagesI’ve never been promised an easy life. I never knew I’d have trouble conceiving children. I never knew that parenting would be a challenge. I never fully understood that adoption would bring me tears of joy and sorrow. I never knew the pain that would come with watching a parent die.

Our vocations are given to us by God, but they can be tiring. Oh, it’s rewarding to be a Sunday School teacher, but that requires preparation and handling the unexpected questions that the children ask. It’s great to be a neighbor, but perhaps your own home is still rather quiet at night. The role of daughter holds its own blessings and challenges. A parent strives to give her young children her best but knows that she fails. Why must I consider that my parents might need me to assist them in making some decisions in their senior years? Why is it so hard? Some of us are given the vocation of mother; others are not.

Still, God has not promised that every vocation is going to turn out peachy-keen. This world is full of sin and sorrow. Parents anger their children. Teenagers rebel. Miscarriages occur. Adopted children ask haunting questions about birth parents. Our children, young and old, die unexpectedly. We gossip about the neighbors. We covet what our neighbors have. We despise the gifts that are given to others. Simply put – we fail in our vocations. WHY? And why can’t we have the vocations that we pick?  Why won’t God let ME decide what I want? Surely I know more than He does.

That thought process is exhausting. We desire to control every aspect of our lives. We want to keep our children safe, so we guard their every move. We expect to decide when to start a family, but we really don’t know how our bodies are going to react. We hope that the adoption process is a quick one, but we have no idea how long it’s really going to take. All of these things can consume us because we so desperately long to control everything. Why do we wear ourselves out like this?

Enter sin. That ugly reality of our own selfishness. Our sinful desire to rule the world. The dream that we can have the big house with two kids and a big dog and a cabin by the lake. The idea that people will want to be like us. The promise that we can have it all, if we only work harder. We deceive ourselves by thinking we know our own needs better than God does. We cling to the lie that we can have it all. It’s so tiring to live that way.

Yet there is forgiveness and mercy through Jesus Christ. He knows our struggles. He knows how hard it is to rejoice when you are suffering your own sorrows. He understands the emptiness in your home. He knows what it is likely to be alone and lonely. He desires only good things for you, even though you are surrounded by sadness. In fact, He does not leave you alone in your weariness and sorrow. He invites you to confide in Him and be comforted in Him.

Jesus says, “Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

You have also been given sisters in Christ who pray for you. We know those birth announcements are difficult, so we visit you and cry with you. We stand beside you at those baptism celebrations. We invite you into our lives because we love for you who you are. Let these dear sisters share your burdens, your sorrows, your tiredness. They will mourn with you, and, at the appropriate times, they will rejoice with you. Their vocation is given to them by God to pray for you and to love you.

So rest in Jesus. Lay your burdens at His feet. Rest in His arms that hold you. He will never tire of listening to you or caring for you because He loves you.



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.

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.