A few weeks ago I was able to share a little of my testimony with a group of international women in our church's ESL program. I began by sharing the following verse from the book of Isaiah with them:
To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory. (Isa. 61:3, NLT)
I went on to tell them a little about my struggle with infertility. I told them how there were so many years that I mourned over the loss of children. I mourned when I was told my husband and I couldn't conceive. I mourned when possible adoptions didn't come to be. I mourned when we adopted embryos and went through transfer procedures that didn't result in positive pregnancies.
I shared with these ladies from various parts of the world that there was a time that I didn't feel like praising God for any reason. There was a season of my life that I thought I was not enough. I wasn't good enough. I wasn't obedient enough. I felt at times I wasn't forgiven enough. In my mind, if I was "enough" then God would hear my cries and answer the prayers of my heart for a child. I was really good at sitting in all the "ashes" from my past, all the failures, all the disappointments.
Something that has always been painful for me through this journey of infertility, was to see or hear someone tell a woman who announced her pregnancy, "You deserve this." or "You are so favored and blessed." I always thought, "Does that mean I don't deserve the blessings of God? Because He created me in a way that I can't conceive?" I still hurt at times when I hear people say those things about women. I hurt for women I know who are infertile when I hear people say that. I don't think that God made me a woman who is unable to conceive because He doesn't favor me, or because He doesn't love me or want to bless me. But for so long, I believed it because I thought that is what others believed. Today, I think quite the opposite. I believe God chose my husband and I to be an infertile couple. He put us together because He favored us. And through all we've been through, He blessed us.
Then I showed those ladies a picture of a blonde, curly-haired little girl with a big white bow in her hair. I told them that she, to me, was the crown of beauty that God gave me in exchange for all the ashes I allowed myself to sit in for so long. He didn't give me a child because I deserved to be a mother. He didn't give me a child because He favors me any more than He does another woman.
God gave us a child because He wanted to exchange all the ashes of our lives for a crown of beauty. God chose to give us joy instead of the mourning that had so long been a part of our lives. God gave us a song of praise to sing in exchange for the despair that seemed to envelop our lives for so long. And He did those things simply because He loves us.
Then I shared with these ladies, many of whom probably didn't even fully understand all the words I was speaking, that God wanted to do the same for them. He wants to take the fear they have as they begin life in this foreign country. He wants to take the sadness, or homesick feelings, they may have from leaving all that was familiar to come to this country for better jobs or lives for their family. He wants to take the hurt that they may have experienced, possibly at the hands or words of someone they've come in contact with here in America. I told these sweet ladies that God loves them and He wants to bless them, no matter who they are, what their station in life, no matter their education level - whether poor or wealthy, single or married, mother or not.
That was what I shared with those ladies that day. And that's the message I hope God allows me to share with my daughter. God does bless. He does show favor - just by the act of forgiveness that He offers, He favors us. We all have flaws. We all have a struggle, a story that is full of ashes. On our own, we can never be "enough." Not without Him.
As I was allowed the blessing of celebrating another Mother's Day as someone's mommy, I thanked God for taking my ashes and giving me so much more beauty, joy, or praise than I ever knew existed. I don't have those things because I have a child. I have those things because I accepted the love and forgiveness of a God that cares for me so much more than I could ever conceive.
I'm so thankful today and everyday that God allows me to be this girl's mother. I don't deserve it. I fail miserably most days. But I'm thankful every day. I pray God blesses her in ways that Reagan and I can't even imagine.