Wednesday, September 21, 2005

How Hannah Ministered to a Single "Woman In Waiting" (for a Husband)

I was engaged at 18 and married two weeks after my 20th birthday. I can relate to years of crying out to God in longing for a husband about as well as a woman who gets pregnant her first month trying to conceive and carries to term without a glitch can say "I know just how you feel!" to an infertile woman. Yet, though I do not know this experientially, I've always felt that the infertility journey must have many parallels to being single and longing for marriage. I can't say, "I understand," but my heart still is tender toward those longing not only for motherhood but for the closeness and fellowship of life partnership as well.

With this having been said, it is a blessing to me to begin hearing from single woman who have been blessed, challenged or encouraged by Hannah's story. I would like to share an excerpt of one such letter that shows how the active and living Word of God can have far-reaching effects. Shauna Bowman has been gracious enough to let me print her story:

I probably should warn you this is a fan letter of sorts, for both you and Hannah. I just finished Hannah's Hope and I am so blessed, encouraged, impressed and inspired.

First of all, I think you are now my latest and greatest hero. I am so impressed with your work on your book and how many thousands of lives you have touched through your ministries. God truly knows how blessed I've been to find Hannah's Prayer. Having been unable to get a hold of anyone [at my local pregnancy loss support organization for Arizona], I don't know what I would do floundering on my own without HP.

There were so many things in the book that I found myself identifying with that I never expected. First off, I guess I should tell you where I'm coming from. I have an almost 2 year old boy and I just had a pretty nasty miscarriage -- you've responded to my posts, but I don't expect you to remember everybody here! I've never considered myself infertile, but I've always been a big fan of Hannah's.

In fact, when I was pregnant with my son, I was on bedrest for 2 months. Like you mentioned you did in the book, I started to journal through the Bible page by page for every mention of pregnancy. I got a lot of really encouraging material and last year I decided I should try to make a book out of it, maybe a devotional for pregnant women or something of the sort. I started writing quite a bit, but then when I got to Hannah last winter I just hit a block and have been stumped ever since. I think God had me hold off for several reasons, but losing my own baby has completely opened my eyes to a world of hurting women I never really acknowledged existed before.

I had identified with Hannah myself before though, but from a different angle. I was nearly 27 when I got married, not because I was too busy working on a career or I couldn't make a commitment, but because, in my estimation at the time, nobody wanted me. I now realize how awesome it is that God saved me for my precious husband (I can't imagine a better guy!), but those years of waiting and wondering if marriage and motherhood were not what God had in His plans for me were agonizing.

All I ever wanted was to be a mom, really, and here I was being denied the desire of my heart because I had no man to even make that a possibility. I suppose to most, 27 isn't really that old-- and in retrospect I'm so grateful for the life I had prior to getting married-- but I had been waiting so long, I'd pretty much given up hope. I'd even jokingly said, as a teenager, if I wasn't married (or at least had some serious prospects) by the time I was 25 I was going to hang myself. Well my 25th birthday came and went with no "prospects" and I was devastated. For some reason, that was the point of no return for me.

A few months later, my little sister (3 years younger) newly married came to me in a state of panic over her positive pregnancy test-- she was especially upset that she wouldn't be able to ride the "good rides" at Disneyland because she was now pregnant. I was even more devastated. I couldn't understand why everyone I knew and loved was being given this great blessing of marriage and family when I was being denied. So I got down on my knees and took Hannah's example and wept for a child (following a husband, of course). I had peace for a short time after that point and then a month and a half later Robert asked me out.

Anyway, I'm just mentioning all that to say I was amazed at how much in your book rang true to me in that stage of my life. I remember detesting Mother's Day every year of my twenties until I got married. Especially in my little churches, I'd often be lumped in with teenage girls because I was single while women younger than me got to sit at the "big girl" tables simply because they were married. (I even got demoted to the kid's table the first Thanksgiving after my sister got married so that there would be room for her husband.) Of course, there was always the default Bible study for people that didn't qualify for the married or mothers studies, but even that stung. I remember crying over my period-- I know it's no where near the pain of trying and being unable to conceive-- but it was just another reminder that I was alone.

Having said all that, now I'm 30. And just when I thought I could have learned all I could from Hannah, I had to give a child back to the Lord. It's been so hard, so much more than I could ever have imagined. So many things in your book that people say and that I feel coincide.

I'm so very grateful that you have written this book. I will be recommending the crud out of it. It's just amazing how God can really trade beauty for ashes... Thank you for being so willing to share.
God bless you!

(c) Copyright Shauna Bowman, 2005

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

My baby would be 10-years-old

This past weekend was the 10-year anniversary of Noel's due date. Given my track record for early labor, she probably would have actually been born in August, but every "Labor Day" weekend I can't help but stop and reflect on the knowledge that I was due to have been "in labor" this weekend in 1995.

In fact, had we had gotten pregnant as quickly as we would have liked, I could have been a mother of a 12-year-old by now! Two neighborhood kids just celebrated their 10th birthdays this summer. The 12-year-old a street over is named Alexis (Noel's middle name). Ongoing reminders... These are the mind-boggling and continual losses of infertility. I am ever-so-thankful for the joy of mothering the precious children God has so graciously granted me here on earth, but as I raise preschoolers, my heart sometimes wanders to the "what ifs" and "could have beens" and I still grieve for what/who is not.

The crushing grief is not what it was 10 years ago when the anguish of loss was so fresh and our arms so very empty. The pain is not as sharp as it was even 6 1/2 years ago when we were still struggling through primary infertility. Or 4 years ago when we finally had a living child in our home but grieved the back-to-back losses of Joel and Hannah and the ongoing reality of secondary infertility. But even today, as a carry this new preious life within my womb, I must stop and recognize that grief has left a lifetime imprint on my heart.

Happy 10th birthday, our precious Noel Alexis. Mommy still misses you, Little One. I am so very thankful for the hope of Heaven.

Here is an article I recently wrote in reflection of another friend's loss:

Seeing Face to Face

My baby died. I find myself clinging to the only comfort I can find in this sickening sea of grief - knowing that my child is safe, beyond the grasp of human frailty and pain. When I think of Heaven it is with new eagerness, with a longing to see my child’s face and hold him in my arms. I read that my focus in Heaven will be on worshiping the Lamb, but today my mother’s heart is too broken to even imagine this reality, for my longing is for my own “little lamb” for whom I eagerly await our reunion in Eternity. Today it feels like the “eternity” that separates us will never end, but I must trust that this earthly life is truly a vapor and that in the grand scheme of time, I will be with my precious child again very soon.

Had he lived to be 100-years-old here on this earth, I never could have fully conveyed to him my heart. But in the blink-of-an-eye that we did have together, how could he even begin to grasp my depth of love for him? Did he feel comfort and security in my womb? Did the sound of my voice ever ease his fears?

Does he know that he was wanted, yearned for, prayed for, eagerly anticipated? Does he know that I would have willingly traded my life in a heartbeat to spare his? From the glory of Heaven, does he retain even one memory of the brief blip that was his time on earth? Does he too await our reunion with anticipation?

While my head knows that my baby is probably so busy worshiping before the Throne to really “miss” me at all, I can’t help but put my human limitations on him when I dream of his life. My baby and I both have limited horizons, such narrow ability to grasp the other’s present reality. I am a prisoner to human emotion, bound by time, space and earthly perspective. He is impaired by an inability to grasp life outside the borderless, timeless, painless beauty of living in the presence of the Son. If faith is being sure of what I hope for and certain of what I do not see, I must cling to that faith as my mind tries to grasp this awesome, unseen, unknown, unfathomable World that my baby now calls Home.

I want to imagine my child running to me with outstretched arms the moment I cross into Glory. I want to daydream that he is longing to see my face with even a fraction of the anticipation I feel when I think of seeing his. I want to delight at the thought of following my own precious “tour-guide” around those golden streets as we both revel in simply being together. And maybe these beautiful visions aren’t too far from reality, for Scripture does promise that we will know one another and fellowship There. But I wonder how much we will focus on the earthly bonds we once shared when we are in the presence of the King together, as co-heirs with Christ? I see it all as a poor reflection through cloudy glass right now. How I long to know what it will truly be like to know my child, even as I am fully known.

How does God perceive my Homecoming? Just as I crave to think of my baby in eagerness awaiting me at those Gates of Pearl, does the Lord long for my heightened anticipation of my first face-to-face meeting with my Father? Just as my baby “knew love” in the fullest manner a tiny infant possibly could, how far short of grasping the reality of His love for me does my heart fall? Perhaps my limited expectations of Heaven offer a better perspective on the realities of Eternity than I have stopped to realize before. For everything I am hoping and feeling and longing for in missing my baby, perhaps these reflect the feelings my Father has toward me.

Lord, help me to fully entrust my child to you, both in the present and in my hopes and dreams for our future together. You are the Author of life, of love, of family. You understand this mother’s heart and my longing to know my child and be fully known by him. Help me to more fully grasp your Father’s heart toward me as we await Reunion Day.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
- 1 Corinthians 13:12