"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9
From the time I was four years old I was one of those girls who only ever wanted to be a mother. My play revolved around feeding my baby dolls, rocking them, and laying them into cradles with a tuck and a kiss. As I grew up that desire grew stronger. I’m the fourth of four children so I knew I needed at least four of my own, more would be even better. I imagined a house full of love and beautiful chaos.
In 1989 I met and quickly married Bruce, and my dreams were off to a promising start. Bruce is ten years older than I and he too was excited to start our family early in our marriage. Less than two years later we bought a beautiful home big enough to grow into. We both loved and followed Jesus and knew the Lord had prepared us to be parents. And the wait, and my growth, began.
To say now that years went by minimizes the pain of each hopeful month, but my optimism never failed. At 22 I’d had a miraculous healing that saved me from a scheduled hysterectomy, and I firmly believed that God would not have healed me if he didn’t plan to use the very parts of me he’d saved. I know that some women trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant feel bad when others around them get pregnant, but for me it only ever offered proof that it could happen. In fact, it happened all the time all around me, and I knew the next time it could be me. I couldn’t wait to plan birthday parties and go to school concerts. I was dying to accept the rose offered at church each Mother’s Day without feeling like I was an imposter. I would give anything to say, “Yes!” when the inevitable question, “Do you and your husband have children?” was asked. And still I waited. The only thing I was aware of growing in me was impatience.
My ache, the yearning, became almost unbearable. By that time we had made our way to fertility specialists and I had endured multiple painful — physically, emotionally, and financially — procedures and surgeries. There was no definitive explanation for why we weren’t conceiving. And God, my sweet, gracious, perfect Heavenly Father whom I’d loved since I was a small child, began to seem more like a cruel bully who dangled a golden carrot in front of me every four weeks only to snatch it away and throw it in a fire. Stories of unwanted pregnancies, abandoned children, and child abuse felt like personal attacks to my heart. Casual, lighthearted complaints of pregnancy fatigue or toddler tantrums made we want to scream in frustration and envy. I was growing, but seeds of bitterness were taking root.
One afternoon in 1995 a new friend called. A few weeks before she had married a good friend of Bruce’s and I had been reaching out to her to help her settle in Orlando. She had news: she was pregnant. They hadn’t planned it, but there it was. Somehow I made it through that phone call and offered the appropriate enthusiastic congratulations, but in reality I felt crushed. That one tiny straw of joyous news broke this camel’s back and the pain in me felt like it would consume me. I rushed to the only place I could think of: my sweet, wise mother-in-law’s, where she took one look at me and pulled me into her arms where I could sob for as long as I had tears. When I was finally spent, she looked me tenderly and said, “Is there a reason you don’t want to adopt?” My answer was an emphatic, “No, there’s not!” I just wanted a baby and at that point I didn’t care if it came from a cabbage patch, a stork, or a flying saucer! But my belief that God had healed me for pregnancy blinded me to other options. That night I couldn’t sleep. I got on my knees, my face pressed to the floor, and I left it all there. The pain, the expectation, the grief. I mourned the baby I’d been waiting so long for — the one that had Bruce’s eyes and my smile. I believed that the desire to be a mother had come from Him, but I lifted that to Him as well. I finally gave it all back and sincerely said, not my will Lord, but yours. I heaped all of my grief and disappointment in a big, ugly pile and, gathering every ounce of courage I could muster, gave it to the only One who knew where it belonged. When the sun rose the next day, my heart was changed. It was filled with hope, joy, and freedom. The stretching and growing had been painful, but it made room for more of Him. And so the path that ultimately led us to our daughters was cleared.
After the tortuous road of infertility, adoption seemed like a walk in the park! Our daughter, Alison, woke up in our home for the first time on Mother’s Day, May 12, 1996. Her sister, Grace, arrived February 5, 1998. Finally, and more beautifully than I could have ever dreamed, I was the woman in Psalm 113:9. “He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord.” And I still grow. My heart has expanded to a far greater capacity to love. I discovered that my mother’s heart was also the heart of a teacher and I had an amazing 15-year second career teaching kindergartners and first graders. My love for each of my students through the years was absolute and I can only believe that it was shaped by my understanding of how precious, rare, planned, sacred each life is.
I joke that the only way I could have been a mother to a petite blond and a blue-eyed athlete (attributes that would never describe me!) was through adoption, but in reality if I’d never walked this path to parenthood I may never have fully understood what a gift it is. I may have felt possessive, in control, and proud, rather than fully aware of the gift of each moment and each blessing. Where I may have been tempted to say, “She got that from me,” I can only point heavenward and say, “She got that from Him.” I have grown, and yet only barely tapped into the understanding that the Lord’s plans are holy and perfect and infinitely good, far better than mine. His way rarely resembles the one in our imagination, but that’s only because the destination is far more beautiful than even our wildest dream.
For further reading: Proverbs 3:5-6, Proverbs 16:9, Isaiah 40:31, Romans 8:28, James 5:11
Heavenly Father, you are El Shaddai, God Almighty; Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord Provides; Jehovah-Rohi, my Shepherd. You know our end from the beginning, and You are perfectly trustworthy. Thank you for loving us too much to let us wander for long where we’ll be lost and in peril. When we are tempted to step off the path you have for us, we pray you would correct our steps even if it’s a painful correction. We give you this day and each of our tomorrows for you know the plans you have for us, and they are good. In the mighty, beautiful, powerful name of your Son, Jesus. Amen.