Fifteen Years Later

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Taken in 2004 when we were still babies.

The day we got married fifteen years ago, we were babies. I was twenty-one; you were twenty-three. At the time, we thought we were so grown up, but now I see how naive we were. Our entire future lay before us: bright and overflowing with possibility. We were going to conquer the world! Not really, but it certainly felt like it.

We didn’t know that our first ministry position would be at a church plant that would fail before it fully launched, that in its final week you would become the lead pastor with the responsibility of shutting it down with dignity. You were amazing; I can’t remember if I ever told you. We didn’t know how bad the situation was until a veteran minister told us that what we went through was the worst he had ever seen. Surely not, we thought. But further corroboration came a decade later when we ran into several pastors who had seen what we went through and each told us the same thing: “We’re so happy you’re still following Jesus.”

When we were in the midst of that ministerial catastrophe, we felt like our lives were over. We had no idea our lives were just beginning.

We didn’t know that in less than a year, we would move to the Philippines and join the pastoral staff of the largest church in the country. (What a turnaround from what we had come from!) Our minds didn’t have the capacity to anticipate how much we would learn, how much we would heal, and how much we would fall in love with a people we never expected to fall in love with. When we eventually left the Philippines to follow the dream we had in our hearts since before we got married, we again felt like we could conquer the world.

We left the Philippines to move to Springfield, MO. Not really. We left the Philippines because we wanted to move to Japan to start a church, but we needed to prepare first. And God wanted us to prepare in Small City, USA. “Five years,” we said. “We’ll live in Springfield for five years and then we’ll move to Japan.” No we wouldn’t.

When we hit the two-and-a-half-year mark, we were halfway done with our gotta-do-before-we-go-to-Japan list. We were right on schedule. And then…

“Daniel, my hands hurt. Look, my fingers can barely move.” After getting a master’s degree in piano performance, we thought my hands were just tired. We had no idea our lives were about to get harder.

Months later you wouldn’t just be my husband; you would become my caretaker. Every morning, you would carry me out of bed and move my legs toward the bathroom because I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own. You would lift my hands over my head to help my arms move as I would scream and cry in pain. It was torture, but it had to be done. It was the only way I would be able to shower on my own. When you weren’t at work, you were spending all your time taking care of me. I could see the exhaustion and worry on your face. Before we went to bed each night, I would cry because I knew the next day we would have to do it all again.

All of this was during your first semester of seminary. When I was in grad school, you supported me. “When you start working on your master’s,” I said, I’m going to support you.” I’m so sorry I couldn’t keep my end of the deal.

When I was diagnosed with lupus, people told me, “Your husband is amazing because he stayed.” This isn’t what you signed up for the day you married me. And yet you stayed.

“But what about Japan?” people asked us, as though God was completely shocked by my lupus diagnosis and had no idea it was coming when He placed the dream for Japan on our hearts. We didn’t know that the first time we would have a chance to minister in Japan, lupus would be the key. I would share my story of God’s goodness amidst suffering. It was Christmastime, so you would talk about Narnia, the darkness of winter, and the coming of spring. And God would do amazing things. We had no idea we would have to wait so long for this dream, but God has been good enough to let us have a little taste.

The excitement of that trip was soon overshadowed by more pain. “This is harder than the failed church plant,” I cried, “This is harder than lupus!” You nodded. You felt it, too. Finding out we couldn’t have children was devastating for both of us.

The day we got married, if I would have known the kind of suffering we would experience, I don’t know that I could have gone through it. I would have looked at all the hard stuff and walked away. But if I had, I wouldn’t have known the profound joy that has blossomed out of each painful experience.

In the months that followed the failed church plant, we found another church in Washington, D.C. where we were surrounded by people who spoke life into our hearts. In that church, God taught us to stand up again. Whenever we go back to visit D.C., I love that we always make a stop at that church’s coffeehouse as a kind of pilgrimage. How fitting that it’s called Ebenezers: “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” And as you sip your coffee and I sip my iced chai, we remember that we’re standing on holy ground, a place where God met us. And when we look back on our lives and remember all we’ve been through, we’re filled with fresh excitement for our future. God brought us this far; He’s not about to stop helping us now!

I’ve heard people say that you don’t really know what love is until you have children. But when you carried me—literally—each morning as we thought I might be dying, you showed me what love is. You showed me a capacity for love beyond what I could imagine. And as we have walked through the deep waters of chronic illness together, you have been my advocate and my champion. When I began to walk on my own again, you cheered for me and made me feel like I had conquered the world. I can’t articulate well the gratitude I feel knowing that I have such an amazing person to celebrate every victory with.

And as we walked through the wilderness of infertility, you refused to let me stop dreaming. I love what we’re doing with our lives now. We’re doing things we probably wouldn’t be able to do well if we had children. We wanted so much to be able to leave behind a legacy. We thought we needed children to do that; God showed us we don’t.

And the cherry on top: you’ve shown me how fun it can be when it’s just the two of us. Five Bookstore Friday dates, late night Waffle House runs, and spontaneous “Ooooh, what’s that? Let’s check it out!” adventures.

When we were young, we wanted so much for God to show us His plan for our lives. We know better now. We don’t really want to see all the stuff that God sees because it would terrify us. We would run the other direction and miss all the good stuff He has for us.

I don’t want to know what’s going to happen next. I just want to keep living this adventure with you.

Speak Life

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Photo by Tharatip Sukee on Pexels.com

“So when are you gonna start having kids?”

“Um…I want kids, but, um…I can’t.”

I could see the wheels in their heads spinning wildly as they hurried to conjure something to say. I wished they focused more on being present and speaking life rather than just trying to make conversation. At least they were being nice, right? Or maybe they missed an opportunity to speak the words I needed to hear in that moment.

When I was diagnosed with lupus six years ago, I was inundated with people who had a lot of advice for me—both medical advice from people who had no medical degrees but vast knowledge obtained from Google, and spiritual advice from people who could quote passages of scripture but didn’t take enough time to get to know me and where I was with my faith. Early on a friend gave me some good advice that saved me a lot of frustration: “People will say things to you that are insensitive or even hurtful, but they mean well and don’t know any better. So when that happens, it’s an opportunity for you to show grace.” I don’t have the energy to dwell on the hurtful things people say, and I’ve found that when I show grace to others, I’m also saving myself from bitterness and frustration that can drain me of my limited strength.

Unfortunately, this story repeats itself many times over for those who suffer in any form. People want to help, but all too often say the wrong things. They’re trying to be nice, but they’re still missing the mark. And when I say, “people,” I mean me, too. I’m guilty of saying “nice” things that miss the mark.

When we were kids we were taught, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” This is great advice to teach children to not be mean.

But is that all? As followers of Jesus, when we speak, is the most important thing for us to avoid being mean or is there something more? Are we missing out on opportunities to be salt and light by being satisfied with our “nice” conversations?

When I think of the words of Jesus (and even Peter and Paul), “nice” doesn’t come to mind. Kind, powerful, honest, but not “nice.” If you removed from the Bible all the words of Jesus that didn’t follow the “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” maxim, I don’t think you’d have very much left.

So let’s change the motto: “If you don’t have anything life-giving to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Speak life. That’s what made Jesus’ words—even the ones that stung—so good. He wasn’t careless with His words. He never spoke just to fill the silence or just to get something off His chest. When He spoke, He spoke life.

I want to be the kind of person who speaks life.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.(Ephesians 4:29 ESV)

“Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”  (Ephesians 4:29 NLT)

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”(Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

 
Our words should
  • build up
  • be good, helpful, and beneficial
  • encourage
  • be appropriate for the occasion and meet people where they’re at in that moment and season of their lives (which means you’ll need to listen carefully first)
  • give grace

Don’t just be nice. Don’t just say what you feel. Don’t just give advice. Speak life.

Speak life to the mom and her children who have had a rough day.

Speak life to the couple who is facing infertility.

Speak life to the woman who is struggling with chronic illness.

Speak life to the man who exhausted from working hard to provide for his family.

Speak life to the high school kid who’s struggling to get your fast-food order right.

Speak life to the one who feels like their life is falling apart and they just can’t get it together.

Speak life to the public official who has to make the decision several times a day between doing what’s easy and doing what’s right.

Speak life to the college student who is carrying heavy loads, learning to be an adult, and is reminded of the uncertainty of their future every time someone says, “So what are you doing when you graduate?”

Even speak life to the pastor who carries the burdens of the people he (or she) leads while spending unseen hours writing sermons and handling administrative duties that keep the church functioning week to week.

Speak life.

A Woman’s Highest Calling

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She ran to me after church, beaming with excitement. “I wanted to tell you before I told anyone else…I’m pregnant!” (Insert squealing, and hugging, and a flood of happy tears.) This sweet friend of mine had walked the painful road of infertility and made my journey through infertility less lonely. I had prayed desperate prayers for her—the words were easy because I had prayed them so many times for myself—and God heard. She was no longer barren. Now she is a mother.

As I walked out of the church building, the happy tears were no longer happy. Buried emotions welled up inside of me and grief took over. I know that God has been overwhelmingly good to me and has filled my heart with beautiful Kingdom dreams. But during that car ride home, I felt like I had gotten a bad deal. My dreams paled in comparison to the dream of motherhood, and I felt ashamed of them.

As I type this, the absurdity of these words is glaring. The Kingdom dreams bestowed upon me by the Almighty God and Creator of the universe seem like a bad deal compared to motherhood? Absurd.

Struggles with infertility are excruciating. I’ve spoken with women who know pain and hardship, and who speak of how the pain of infertility are greater than anything else they’ve experienced. Infertility crushes dreams and mocks our desires. This is hard enough, but it’s made harder still by a lie that we were taught when we were still young:

“Motherhood is a woman’s highest calling.”

“I see women believing and repeating the lie that motherhood is the highest calling for all women. Did you know that’s nowhere in the Bible? The only reference to a chief call on anyone’s life is found in Matthew 6:33: Seek first the Father’s kingdom and His righteousness. We watch as that lie discourages those who are unable to be mothers and immobilizes those who love their children and still feel called to serve in other contexts. I see broken women believing the only role for them is quiet service and the only pace is nonstop. They exhaust themselves as they serve out of obligation, not worship. I see women believing it’s brash and wrong to seek the wisdom of God, waiting on others to intercede and teach them the Word rather than seeking first the kingdom themselves.”

(Jess Connolly in Wild and Free)

Motherhood is NOT a woman’s highest calling.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my mama friends! Motherhood is an amazing calling—mothers shape the world!—but it is neither the highest nor only calling for a woman. And when we reduce women to whether or not they have children, we minimize the potential God has for their lives.

The world needs mothers.

And the world needs women who are not mothers.

Let’s stop reducing women’s identities to motherhood and empower them to be all that God has called them to be: the daughters of the Almighty God, called to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and to fulfill big, beautiful Kingdom dreams!

Singing My Theology, No. 2

pexels-photo-92083.jpegI’m a bibliophile. I live in a house that is overflowing with books. One of my favorite genres? Theology. Aside from the Bible, wanna guess what my first theology book ever was? Not some masterpiece by Augustine, Bonhoeffer, or even C. S. Lewis.

My very first theology book was Wee Sing Bible Songs…complete with a cassette tape. I acquired this priceless gem around the first grade. I had never heard of the word “theology,” yet deep theological truths were sinking deep into my heart as I sang along with the cassette tape that played over and over and over again in my parents’ car.

Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so. Little ones, to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes Jesus loves me…

God is so good. God is so good. God is so good, He’s so good to me…

I’ve got peace like a river. I’ve got peace like a river. I’ve got peace like a river in my soul…I’ve got joy like a fountain. I’ve got joy like a fountain…

The songs we sing matter. I don’t remember any sermons from the first decade of my life, but the songs I sang are still imprinted in my memory.

In the months that led up to my lupus diagnosis, my body was frail. I couldn’t keep down food and lost about 20 pounds in two and a half months. (If you don’t know me, I’m 4′ 10″, so those 20 pounds were significant.) I couldn’t get out of bed or squeeze a tube of toothpaste on my own. Simple things like walking and playing the piano were excruciating. This is when I truly began to understand: They are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me…

At first, I was hopeful that it wasn’t anything serious, and even if it was, certainly God would heal me soon. But as time went on with my health getting worse and no answers from the doctors, I felt like my time in this world might be coming to a close. And one evening, I asked my husband sit beside me as I lay in bed. Through tears, I let him know I loved him and told him my dying wish. I was sad at the thought of leaving him behind so young, but I was no longer afraid of death or what the future may hold. I had peace. I’ve got peace like a river. I’ve got peace like a river…

I remember wanting to read my Bible, but my fingers were too weak to hold such a bulky book. So I spent a lot of time lying in bed, alone with my thoughts. Nothing to distract me from the tender voice of God. I still cherish those moments. Yes, they were excruciating, but God’s presence was so sweet. I prayed with rawness and honesty; I didn’t have the energy to offer dignified prayers. And as I silently poured out my heart, God wrapped me in His loving arms. God is so good. God is so good. God is so good, He’s so good to me…

Someone once told me that there’s something about suffering that changes a person; suffering refines us. It is suffering that has taught me the depth and richness of the words I sang as a girl. And as chronic illness brings pain and challenges to daily life, these songs keep my mind fixed on the God who is strong and good, who loves me, and who fills my soul with peace and joy.

 

Yet

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One of my favorite words in the Bible is “yet.”

yet

ADVERB
Up until the present or a specified or implied time; by now or then.
Still; even (used to emphasize increase or repetition)
In spite of that; nevertheless
CONJUNCTION
But at the same time; but nevertheless.
These three letters are easy to miss. We rush past “yet” to find the “good stuff,” not realizing that “yet” is the good stuff.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
and by night, but I find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.”
“O you hope of Israel,
its savior in time of trouble,
why should you be like a stranger in the land,
like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for a night?
Why should you be like a man confused,
like a mighty warrior who cannot save?
Yet you, O Lord, are in the midst of us,
and we are called by your name;
do not leave us.”
“Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer’s;
he makes me tread on my high places.”

God doesn’t stop being who He is just because life becomes hard. Darkness and suffering don’t negate God; they provide the canvas to make His light and goodness more visible.

So let’s make “yet” part of our anthem:

  • Though what I’m going through is hard, yet God is still good.
  • Though my heart is heavy and I don’t know how I’m going to make it, yet I will live with joy because God is my hope and my strength.
  • Though God seems distant and His silence is drowning the sound of my prayers, yet He is near, He hears my cries, and He’s working in ways my eyes cannot see.
  • Though my life is hard and messy, yet I will keep praising God, holding onto Him, and trusting in Him because He is still an amazing God who loves me and is able to accomplish infinitely more than I ask or think.

“Yet” is the kind of word where the tension between theology and real life thrives. It does not deny the reality of what we’re going through, but it chooses to focus on a bigger reality that our human eyes cannot always see. This word changes our perspective, taking our gaze off ourselves and lifting our eyes to the Almighty God who holds all things together and has the power to redeem people and situations.

 


 

Weep With Me,” by Rend Collective

Weep with me. Lord, will You weep with me?

I don’t need answers. All I need is to know that You care for me.

Hear my plea. Are You even listening?

Lord, I will wrestle with Your heart, but I won’t let You go.

You know I believe. Help my unbelief.

Yet I will praise You, yet I will sing of Your name.

Here in the shadows, here I will offer my praise.

What’s true in the light is still true in the dark.

You’re good and You’re kind and You care for this heart.

Lord, I believe that You weep with me.

Part the seas, Lord, make a way for me.

Here in the midst of my lament I have faith, yes, I still believe.

You love me. Your plans are to prosper me.

You’re working everything for good even when I can’t see.

Turn my lament into a love song. From this lament raise up an anthem.

Yet I will praise You, yet I will sing of Your name.

Here in the shadows, here I will offer my praise.

What’s true in the light is still true in the dark.

You’re good and You’re kind and You care for this heart.

Lord, I believe that You weep with me.

 

A Name with Dignity

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What do you call a woman who is married, but has no children?

No, this isn’t a joke. This is a question that darkened my thoughts after the disappointment of my last pregnancy test. Where do I fit in society? Where do I fit in the Church? Is there a place for someone whose category doesn’t have a name? For a long, painful season of my life, I was in identity limbo. I was a no one with no place.

I wrestled with this question more intensely when I talked to the head of the women’s ministry at my church. “We have so many groups for moms, but I don’t fit anywhere.” She was all for me starting something, but neither one of us knew what we could call it.

There were plenty of names that I played around with, but I kept coming across a problem: every name I could think of had a negative component. “Women With No Children.” “Married Without Children.” Even “Infertility Support Group” felt negative, like there’s something wrong with us. I scoured the internet and couldn’t find a term that was any better.

So what do you call a woman who is married but has no children…a name that is positive and can give her dignity?

I mulled over it for many months. I even prayed for God to give me a name. After some time, I gave up.


Names matter. They matter so much that throughout the Bible, we find God renaming people.

When God established his covenant with Abram, he said, “No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.” (Genesis 17:5)

When Jesus called Simon to be His disciple, “Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter).” (John 1:42)

God doesn’t just give new names to individuals, but also to entire peoples:
“And they shall be called The Holy People,
The Redeemed of the Lord;
and you shall be called Sought Out,
A City Not Forsaken.” (Isaiah 62:12)

Names affect how we look at people—how we look at ourselves. And how we look at ourselves permeates the way we live our lives.

So if the name you’ve given yourself is “Barren” or “Infertile,” it’s time to give yourself a new name.


In a moment when my mind was busy with other things and far from the subject matter I’m typing about at this moment, God answered my prayer and gave me a name.

Her name is Priscilla.

Priscilla (or Prisca) is mentioned five times in scripture. Before I describe her, I’ll let you read about her for yourself:

“After this Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.” (Acts 18:1-3, written by Luke)

“[Apollos] began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” (Acts 18:26, written by Luke)

“The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord.” (1 Cor 16:19, written by Paul)

“Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus.” (2 Timothy 4:19, written by Paul)

“Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well.” (Romans 16:3-4, written by Paul)

At first, when referring to this couple, Paul listed the husband’s name first. But after he got to know them, he went against convention and listed her name first. This is a big deal! Priscilla didn’t hide in Aquila’s shadow; her worth was not based on who her husband was and what her husband did. She held her own! When people got to know this dynamic couple, they learned that she was the powerhouse! And for the record, Aquila held his own, too. It takes a strong man to empower his wife to be strong as well.

(By the way, for anyone who believes that the Bible puts down women and is against women in ministry, just point them to Priscilla.)

So what does all of this have to do with my identity as a non-mom?

There is no mention of Priscilla and Aquila being parents. It’s possible they had children, but if they did, it wasn’t in their biography. I know it can be dangerous to jump to conclusions based on silence, but here’s my point:

Priscilla’s identity and usefulness for the Kingdom of God wasn’t dependent on whether or not she was able to bear children.

In a society that was male dominated, she worked alongside—not under—her husband. She was intelligent, capable of teaching leaders. She had an influential role in shaping the early Church. And she was courageous, risking her life for the people she loved.

This is the kind of woman I want to be.

So the next time someone asks me, “Do you have any children?” I’m going to respond with a smile on my face and my head held high, “No, and it’s okay. I’m a Priscilla.”

Questions for Discussion and Contemplation

Is there a name or label that I call myself that is negative or discouraging? Is there a positive name or label I can use instead? (If you can’t think of any, ask God to give you one.)

How can I preach truth to myself in a way that speaks life and gives dignity?

Do I put negative names or labels on other people? How can I speak truth to others in a way that speaks life over them and gives them dignity?

Grieving My Imaginary Child

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On, May 19, 2017, I wrote these words in my journal:

“For a brief moment of quiet, when the only sound was the cars driving through puddles as they passed our street, I remembered my barrenness and cried. There’s something strange about grieving something like this. There’s no burial. No ceremony. No moment of closure. People keep saying words like, “We’ll keep believing for a miracle.” But I don’t want to keep believing for a miracle. I want to lament then move on. I want to not cry anymore. And for that brief moment, as I felt a tear stream down my face, a thought occurred to me: Am I depressed? Will this profound, dark feeling ever completely go away?”

(Before I proceed, I want to say that the words that follow do not come from a desire to compare the severity of the pain I’ve experienced with anyone else’s or to belittle what others have gone through. Pain is pain. It’s not a competition.)

In the months that followed my final “failed” pregnancy test, I had to navigate a lot of awkwardness. I didn’t have a miscarriage. It’s not that a miscarriage is any less painful—walking with friends who had miscarriages taught me that—but it’s different. In a miscarriage, there is a specific event that people can recognize as the starting point of grief and a tangible someone to grieve. So people know when to start giving comfort and why.

But with infertility, things are more vague. Something didn’t happen; something simply didn’t happen. And what’s more, grief makes little sense when the object is not a tangible someone but an idea. But though this grief may not seem to make sense, it’s still very real. In fact, the lack of concreteness and tangibility makes it much more difficult to recognize and label, thus making it more difficult to face.

Though much time has passed and a lot of healing has happened—including many intense conversations with God, some counseling sessions, coffee with friends who have been down the same road, writing pages and pages in my journal, and a myriad of other things—I still feel this grief from time to time.

There are the times when I’m scrolling through social media and see it: “We’re having a baby!” Don’t get me wrong…I’m sort of like Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony. I love celebrating with people—high pitched squealing and all. So when people in my life have wonderful news, I genuinely get excited. I lose nothing by celebrating with others. But for every, “Yay! You’re having a baby!” I’m also confronted with the reality that I am not. Celebration and grief are not mutually exclusive. This is the tension I live in.

There are the times when I stroll through Target. I’ve gotten pretty good at staying away and averting my eyes from baby and children’s stores. But at Target, the baby stuff is right there in the midst of everything. It’s across from the men’s section (where I find myself when I’m shopping with my husband) and right in front of the books (I LOVE books!). No matter what it is that brings me into Target on a given day, it’s inevitable that there will be a moment when, from a distance, a tiny, little outfit catches my eye. Maybe a little, pink dress with ribbons. Or a tiny ensemble, complete with a bow tie and suspenders. I’m a sucker for cute things, itty bitty outfits included. But after the initial swooning, it hits me. Grief.

And then there are the moments when I remember the baby Winnie the Pooh sitting in my closet. I bought it years ago when my husband and I started our journey of trying to have a baby. I was on a work trip to Disney World. I know that sounds like a dream, but I was chaperoning seven high school girls with seven very different personalities, so yeah, tt was not bliss. Anyway, If you’ve never been to a Disney theme park, then you should know that the end of every ride spits you out into a gift shop based on the theme of whatever ride you were just on. It’s genius. Me and the girls had a special bonding moment when we were on the Winnie the Pooh ride and it broke. Workers actually came and got us and let us walk around a bit before leading us out to—you guessed it—the gift shop. That’s when I saw the little Pooh Bear wrapped in a detachable, baby blanket. The moment I saw it, I knew I wanted my baby to have it, so I bought it and held it in my arms as I walked all over the park.

That was the only gift I bought for my baby. I still have it in a box of dead dreams along with my favorite jeans that no longer fit. I think about it from time to time. I think of it every once in a while when I’m reaching up to grab items at the top of my closet. Or whenever one of my friends gets pregnant, I think about passing it along to them. What a special gift it would make, I say to myself. But something inside of me just can’t let it go. Maybe I never will.

I know that the child of my imagination isn’t real, but the love I had for them is. I prayed real prayers for them so many times. I prayed for them to be healthy. I prayed that my husband and I would be a good father and mother to them. I prayed that they would love God and follow Him with their whole heart. I prayed for their future. I prayed for the person they would one day marry. I prayed for God to use them to change the world. And the more I prayed for them, the more my love for them grew. Oh, sweet baby, how I wish you were real!

So the pain of never getting a chance to hear their heart beat, to hold them in my arms and touch all their little fingers and toes, to hear them laugh, to read them a bedtime story and tuck them in at night, to talk with them about their first love and college and big dreams—this pain is very real.

Real love. Real pain. Real grief.

All for an imaginary child.

“You have kept count of my tossing;

put my tears in your bottle.

Are they not in your book?”

Psalm 56:8

Questions for Contemplation & Conversation

With a topic like this, there are no easy answers, no easy fixes. But I write about these things because I want to break down the walls of awkwardness that keep so many people hidden and unseen. It’s my hope that together we can provide places where conversations infused with empathy, compassion, and dignity can thrive.

1. Is there someone or something you are grieving? Why is grief so important? What are tangible ways you can grieve well?

2. Does the Church have a place for women (and men) who are married but don’t have children? What are things the Church can do to help people navigate this kind of grief with dignity?