Counting the Stars: An Essay from a Barren Woman
While this is our story – the story of how God is teaching, leading and sanctifying our family – I do realize that it is not everyone’s story. God knows what each family needs and He is perfect in His ways of maturing and building each one. For some that is a quiver full of “surprise” babies or planned ones, adopted ones or fostered ones. Some are given many. Others a few. And for some, He withholds that particular blessing. He works with each woman – each mother – not only for her good but for His glory.
I also know that even others who have my physical issues have chosen other options. But, again – this is just where we are – what God has led my husband and I to prayerfully decide. And we trust that it is for our good and for God’s glory.
How God has led you in these realms of “family” has been your story of Him working all things together. This is just ours.
And Now... The Story
A young me lined up her dolls alongside her stuffed animals. These were her eight children. They all had names that started with the letter D. Damian, Donovan, Dianna, etc… She had written down descriptions of each child. What they liked to do, their strengths and weaknesses, age… She kept that list in her head and would compose it often. Watching them mature from year to year.
Yes. Weird. I know.
She had planned, too, of course before Damian was born, how she would tell her husband she was expecting. She would say, “I’d like you to meet someone.” Her nameless husband would answer, “Who?” And she would go on to share the good news…
She also dreamed about being with her husband at her OB/GYN looking at that first sonogram.
Yes. I do realize that we just keep getting weirder.
So, you see why, at the age of 38, with my husband with me at the OB/GYN – his first peek at the sonogram was all wrong. All wrong. There was no baby. We weren’t even there for that. We were trying to figure out where the pain was coming from. And how to fix it.
And the answer would be: hysterectomy.
I knew for a couple of reasons I would not be able to have children. But there was always a hope in the back of my heart. There was always the whispered idea that God could do a miracle. And even though I know God created the heavens and earth, the chances of a miracle are now going to be less. Way less without a uterus.
I have always loved the stories of Elizabeth and Sarah in the Bible. Women who against all odds had babies. But, now I look at them with one squinted eye. Surely they still had their uteri.
In the last couple of years, waves of contentment have poured over me in this area. Most of the time I’m fine with my bareness. Most of the time. And then I think about what an amazing dad my husband would be – and how my parents would make the best grandparents… and then I get sad.
I was sad coming home from the second doctor. A little bitter with God. A little angry at everybody and everything. A lot hurt. So, I opened my Bible and asked God to meet me somewhere. I sat in the steaming bath and read aloud from Isaiah with a quivering voice. I started right in the middle. Chapter 40.
And God waved His graciousness and comfort around me and wooed me with His stars.
Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.
Not one of them is missing. Not one of them is missing. The stars all have names. And they are not made in the image of God. And borrowing from a thought sparked by a little sparrow, if God takes such good care of stars, surely He takes even better care of us.
And no one is missing.
No little child is missing from our family. If God wanted to call forth a baby, He would. If He wanted to drop one on our doorstep, He would. If He wanted our family to be made up of 3 instead of 2, or 10 instead of 2, He would.
But He has chosen for us to be 2. At least for now.
On the opposite page of my Bible, I find this verse.
Surely it was for my benefit
that I suffered such anguish.
And although, my anguish doesn't cling to my soul – I have to trust that my barrenness is for my benefit. Today I believe this. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to write this. But, I know that there will be moments when I won’t. And for those times I ask, “Oh, Lord – help me overcome my unbelief.”
And I know He will be faithful.
Even now. My husband (who even though I had told him all this, didn't know I was writing about the stars right at this minute) just came over to show me a new app on his phone – one that identifies the stars as you point to the night sky. See, God’s already growing me to trust His goodness, His tenderness. Confirming His love.
Not one star is missing.
Before I was married at the age of 36, I hung on to Isaiah 54:5. “For your Maker is your husband-the LORD Almighty is His name.
That chapter begins as a song to barren women. Stretch out your tents, it tells me. Spread out to the right and to the left.
Three hundred and twelve children I have in Haiti. Who are now growing up to change their homes and change the world for the glory of God. One hundred and six will I have with me this week – one hundred and six who have been left behind by society and need hugs and wisdom and the patience of a mama that is not based on what they can do or how they perform. I have eighteen at church who love Jesus and the good news He has for us. I have four nephews and a niece whose hearts are nestled so deeply in mine. And I have four littles who come every Thursday night to build a nest in my home.
I love them . I know each to varying degrees… and have varying opportunities to speak the gospel into their hearts. And so I ask that God will stretch out my tent… that my heart, my home, my life, will be a refuge where they feel safe. Where they know God’s faithfulness and holiness is real.
When I gaze into the heavens… Psalm 8 asks… and see the stars… how is it that God cares for me? How is it that He sees my empty arms and fills it with so many people to love? How is it that He who calls the stars by name even knows mine?
When the wave of sadness - the grief of my barrenness - comes over me, you will find me outside, counting the stars. And I promise you this: not one of those stars will be missing.