It was Autumn 1993, so 20 years ago that I sat on the small screened front porch of our home in a rural setting and faced deep disappointment once again, for the millionth time it seemed. I felt betrayed by my own body, misunderstood by the people who I loved the most, abandoned by God and humiliated. My husband, Henry, and I had been married a decade. This was our year to turn 30 and we were childless. The first and second year of our marriage we experienced pregnancy but lost those babies before they came to full term. While I was comforted that we would see them in eternity, my arms remained empty here and now. As time passed we climbed into our assigned seat on the infertility roller-coaster and buckled in for a less than thrilling, far from enjoyable ride that had left me sitting still and feeling numb on a porch swing with coffee growing cold in the cup I held in my hand.
We had tried to give it time and let nature take its course for a few years. We had tried old wives tales, herbal remedies, temperature taking, chart keeping, several laparoscopic procedures to address the endometriosis and even a round of fertility pills. We had prayed prayers, been anointed, claimed verses, stood in faith and as a show of how sure I was, I had given up my job in preparation for the baby I was sure we would soon have. The ob-gyn had assured me after the last procedure that he would leave the back porch light on for me as he thought I would soon return with the success of pregnancy achieved!
Those who cared for me tried their best to comfort me, Henry, like Hannah’s husband from Scripture, hoped his love was enough to fill the void. My precious grandmother encouraged me to just not think about it. My mom pointed out how fortunate I was to have a husband who adored me. My nieces and nephews declared me the best aunt of all as I lavished my attention upon them. While I appreciated their efforts, I felt alone in my despair. They did not understand what I was facing. They could not relate. They did not know.
I had taken my Bible out on the porch with me and I stared at its pages blankly. Desperate for understanding and longing for direction, I tried to focus on the words printed on the delicate pages. I couldn’t. I squeezed my eyes tightly shut, willing away the unbidden tears and allowed myself to pour out my emotion through swirling thoughts in my mind. Obviously, God did not feel I would be a good mother. I must be incapable of that kind of love and commitment. Every person I knew was trying to avoid what I was trying to attain, pregnancy. I had failed to give Henry a child; surely he was disappointed in me. I was faulty, broken, not enough. There was no holding back the tears now, they streamed freely. I sat down the untouched coffee and reached for a tissue. My Bible began to slip off my lap and I instinctively grabbed for it. I embraced it and held it close to my broken heart. “Help me God! Please help me! If this is not your will for me then please take away this desire this longing, this emptiness! Please help me understand!”
I drew the Bible from my chest and let my eyes fall upon the page that had been revealed as I had rescued it from falling. For the rest of my days, as long as I draw breath I will never forget that moment, those words.
“The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.”
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Your children hasten back, and those who laid you waste depart from you.
Lift up your eyes and look around; all your children gather and come to you. As surely as I live,” declares the Lord, “you will wear them all as ornaments; you will put them on, like a bride.
(Isaiah 49:14-18 NIV)
“The children born during your bereavement will yet say in your hearing, ‘This place is too small for us; give us more space to live in.’
Then you will say in your heart, ‘Who bore me these? I was bereaved and barren; I was exiled and rejected. Who brought these up? I was left all alone, but these—where have they come from?’ ”
This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “See, I will beckon to the nations, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their hips.
Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust at your feet.
Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”
(Isaiah 49:20-23 NIV)
I could scarcely believe what I was reading. Great hope did not abound that morning, instead a trickle of hope coursed it’s ways into my aching heart. I didn’t understand everything and all the pain was not erased instantly. But, I knew my God had heard me and answered my cry for help. I knew there was a purpose in the delay. I knew a plan was in place. I was not forgotten.
From that moment I began to seek diligently what God had in store for us rather than my own plans. It took several months to unfold before we found ourselves enrolled in the required training classes to becomes state licensed foster parents. Many considered us foolish as they cautioned we were setting ourselves up for heartbreak. Henry was very hesitant at first, worried that the pain of letting go would be too much for me. I addressed all the worries and concerns with a new found determination. I had been called. I would answer the call.
And when people asked how I could do such a thing, I asked them, how could I not? What this could do to me was not as important as what this could do for a hurting child who may be feeling just as abandoned and forgotten as I had felt.
We fostered for 15 years. Forty-five children came into our lives and into our homes. Some stayed for short times, some for years and seven forever as we were blessed to adopt them. Throughout those years God met me many more times in the pages of Scripture with comfort and strength to do what He had asked me to do. Those stories I will leave for another day.
I hope you will today take this one thing with you. The Word of God and what He says is more real than what you see or hear or feel. I know this to be true. I have lived it.
As unlikely as what I read that morning 20 years ago seemed, less than a year passed before one night under the starlight in my driveway I saw the social worker carry one of my children to me in their arms. Just like the scripture proclaimed, there would be so many that we would need more room. Exactly as the Word proclaimed, I had hoped in Him and I was not disappointed.