I am happy to turn the writing over to Jackie today. My mom is friends with Jackie’s mother-in-law, and she told me about Jackie’s blog. I read one post and I was hooked. I have continually been blessed by Jackie’s honesty, her careful thinking, and her ability to tell a good story. Jackie’s stories also repeatedly point me back to the Gospel and to our true Joy- Jesus. I got to meet her at Christmas: she is just as wonderful in person, and her baby is even cuter. Today, Jackie shares with us how the Lord has used her journey into motherhood to demonstrate his faithfulness to sustain her, keep her, and make her look more like Jesus.
I laughed out loud then leaned in close to her face and grumbled her name as if it were three separate words, “Ly-di-a.” She responded with a roar of laughter and then shoved a block in her mouth and resumed her play.
Despite having only one daughter born in June of 2014, I have been a mother since April of 2012. Three children have made me the mother I am, but she is the only one I have ever held. I am in awe of this 9-month-old goofball who is the only visible evidence of my motherhood. She has my height and her dad’s ticklishness. Her dad’s eye color and my chilly hands. With each day I watch her grow, I am increasingly amazed at the little person she is, the journey we took to get here, the road ahead, and the refining work that God is doing in me as her mom.
God has wrecked my plans before. He has shaped my heart and my attitudes in ways I never expected, but in motherhood, He has brought me low. I have needed him to sustain me in depths of sorrow more than ever. Infertility. Polycystic ovary syndrome. Miscarriage. Postpartum Depression. I always thought motherhood would be only about joy. The reality has been both more fulfilling and more difficult than I could ever have imagined. While I expected to find myself in becoming a mother, God has taken me on the harder road of losing myself to find Him.
In March of 2012, I became pregnant after 8 months of trying to conceive. We were in Cancun on a belated anniversary vacation when those two beautiful pink lines appeared on the pregnancy test, and my husband and I spent the rest of our trip enjoying the warmth of the sun, lounging in the sand beside the ocean, and rejoicing in God’s goodness in his giving of the life in my womb. Just a few weeks later on Good Friday, I lost the baby. As I mourned Christ’s death, I mourned also for my child. As I celebrated his resurrection that Sunday, I grieved through, “Oh Happy Day.” In my journal in the weeks following, I wrote these words:
Juxtaposition. Cancun was the elation. I reveled in the time I was able to spend with God and the wonders of his creation I was able to see. He is so beautiful. But, one thing that overshadowed even our excitement at this great time of relaxation was the miracle God was working in my body. I can’t remember being more happy or more thankful for answered prayer. God had blessed us so richly. Now, the pain. Just two weeks after finding out about our baby, we had to say goodbye. On April 7th, I had a miscarriage. It was, in a word, devastating. I don’t think I ever could have prepared myself, though I felt highly aware of the possibility throughout my very short pregnancy. God chose to bring our baby home to be with Him, and while I trust that our little one is safe and happier than ever in His arms, I miss this child I had growing inside me for such a short time. It still strikes me how funny, how odd it is to miss someone I never knew, never saw. And that has been my last few weeks. God has been good to us. He has been healing the wounds; He has been growing intimacy in our marriage despite the pain. He has been by refuge and my rock in sinking sand. I still don’t understand why it was that my baby had to leave us, but I trust that my God is a good God. My God is a holy God. My God is a loving God. He formed our baby in my womb, and He knew him/her better than I did and He knows me. He knows, as a Father with a child, far better than I do what I need. I am praying for continued comfort and for a heart that falls more in love with my great God as I grieve.
In the months that followed, this grieving woman drifted further and further from contentment in God’s design. I would never hold my baby on this earth. I grew angry and resentful towards my Father because He wasn’t answering my prayers for another child. The waiting was painful. Each day, I thought of the baby I lost, and the reality of my childlessness was made more weighty as a flood of pregnancy announcements filled my Facebook feed each day. My best friend, who had struggled through infertility with me for months, became pregnant with her sweet baby girl. I feel the temptation here to paint a picture of this period of my mourning and seeking God as a time with great beauty in the pain, but friends, it was ugly most days. Scripture says, “be angry and do not sin.” I sinned. I scorned the Father in my anger. I despaired. I mistrusted his goodness. When I said before that He brought me low, He brought me low. I wrestled with the idea of being angry with God. Was it allowed? Was it sin? I prayed to Him in rage and distrust often, most of the time not in the purity of David’s Psalms, but in my selfish pride. But He would not let me be moved from the seat at his right hand. He kept me. He sustained me, even in my anger at Him.
As I mourned and wrestled, God was at work. There was no even, linear vision of growth. I’m sure my husband would tell you he saw a different woman every week, sometimes humble and weak at my Father’s feet, sometimes broken in despair and unwilling to speak to Him, sometimes desperately thankful. But as I grieved and struggled, God was at work. He was growing my heart for the Fatherless. I was childless and broken. They were parentless and in need. I had been just like them, fatherless and lost. My Father rescued me, redeemed me, and fought for me. While on an airplane that winter, I read the book Adopted for Life. God used author Russell Moore’s words to continue to move my heart towards his heart for the orphaned, the fatherless:
“I can’t tell you whether or not God’s calling you, personally, to adopt a child. I can tell you he has a plan for you, a plan that includes picturing his adopting grace and his protection of the fatherless. I can also tell you he’s good to you even when–maybe especially when–he’s up to things you can’t understand. Maybe he’s leading you to the joy of adoption, taking you the long way around.” (p. 111)
I knew I longed to be a mother, and God was working in me so that I began to care far less if that baby would grow in my womb. He/she could grow in my heart. Over the next months as I continued to check ovulation kits each month and wait for Aunt Flo to make her dreaded appearance, I also researched adoption agencies and read about attachment, open adoptions, international adoptions, social injustices and diseases leading to disproportionate amounts of adoptions in some countries. The lines blurred, the issues became clearly more messy than when this child first started to grow in my heart. I asked, and I continue to ask God questions about adoption, ethics, a mother’s heart, and the brokenness mixed with the beauty and love imaged in adoption. Again and again, He has given me peace about our adoption. He has sustained me in the waiting of infertility and the anger and grief of miscarriage. He has changed my plans to be his plans, and the one thing I have never stopped believing is that He will be faithful in the broken beauty of adoption. It will be imperfect, and He will be with me. He has been faithful, even when I am not. He will be faithful to sustain me through this waiting too.
In July of 2013, I was diagnosed with PCOS, polycystic ovary syndrome. A syndrome that causes an increase in testosterone and, thus, difficulty in conceiving. It wasn’t good news, but I was astounded at the peace I felt (most days). I pressed forward trying to conceive, and there were still days down on my knees, buckled down missing my baby, wishing for another. However, most days I was busy falling in love with a child hundreds of miles away, who may not even be born yet, who I didn’t know yet. The same month, we were accepted by West Sands Adoption agency to begin the process (and it has been a process, but that is for another post) of adopting a child from Ethiopia. My heart was set on seeing God grow our family through adoption. He had changed our plans, and then He did it again. In September, I woke up early in anticipation at 4 AM and saw those two little pink lines again. I was pregnant, and in June of 2014, Lydia Jane made her grand entrance. Now as she crawls after me grunting with joy holding a block in her mouth, I both look back and look forward, grateful and broken in the work God has done, is doing, will do as we continue to wait for Him to grow our family further through adoption.
Motherhood has exposed me. God has shown me my anger, my weakness, my pride (even when I am clearly weak), my longing to control. In this stripping down, He has shown me his sovereignty when I long to be in control. He has shown me He is able when I am weak. He has been gentle with me when I have scorned Him. He has carried my burdens with me, and He has been the one sustaining me. He has been enough when all I wanted was to be enough in myself. “Cast your burdens on the Lord, and he will sustain you.”
Jackie is a wife to Josiah, a mother to Lydia, pregnant-in-her-heart with a child in Ethiopia, and a child of God. She works as a stay-at-home mom, a nanny, and is a “temporarily retired” middle school English and Spanish teacher. Her passions include Biblical community, prayer, running, writing, being barefoot, drinking coffee with lots of creamer, eating spoonfuls of Nutella, and spending quality time with the people she loves.