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Cynthia's Story; "Living in the Shadows"

Picture with me, two paths separated by a deep ravine - one path meanders through a meadow filled with soft, lush, green grass; vibrant flowers; full and leafy shrubs; and where there are trees that are laden with fruit and whose branches reach high towards the sky. Birds chirp and dance in the air as the sun shines brightly on families – many families, with children, where there are multiple generations laughing, sharing good times and looking forward to the future. This is a path of life, of growth, a tomorrow – children.

The other path snakes its way through a rocky, barren terrain, where the ground is dry and cracked. The sun is blocked by heavy, dark clouds; the sky is overcast. Foliage and plants, where present, are grey or brown in color, thirsty for nourishment and drink. There are few blooms on plants that struggle to survive in this arid outland. Trees are bent with limbs that are twisted, gnarled and hanging low - some even touch the ground. The path is quiet, and fewer individuals walk this path than the other. This is a path of barrenness, infertility; a life with no children.

I am on the path where the ground is dry and cracked, the sky is dark, and the trees are gnarled and twisted. I am almost 50 and never did I think I would be on this path of infertility. Gone are the days of youth and the anticipation of children and a family to call my own. Maybe you too find yourself on this path. I cannot birth a life, love or cherish one birthed from my womb. Psalm 127:3 states that “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him.” Where is my blessing?! In my hurt and anger I have shouted at God “Why not bless me? What did I do that was so wrong to deserve such a severe punishment?” No children, just shame, humiliation. What was His response to me? Let me start at the beginning; let me explain how I got here.

I have struggled with depression and anxiety that may be the result of sexual abuse that began at the age of 7 and continued until I was 14. Has this influenced my perspective of self and others? You bet. I was young and afraid of what my parents and others would say if I shared what had happened to me - so I told no one. As a result, I lived with hurt and anger, alone. For many years, the enemy whispered that I had done something to deserve this pain and shame; and, that I was broken, unfixable, and unlovable. Sadly, I believed the lies of the enemy and lived in the shadows.

During my childhood and teen years, I buried my shame and pain. I pretended, whether consciously or unconsciously, that everything was okay. I focused on things I enjoyed, like soccer and reading. I loved the library. It was there where I could check out many books and quickly lose myself in the exciting and fun-filled adventures of others. It was easier to get lost in the lives of others than to admit my shame, hurt, and guilt.

Unlike the characters in the stories I read, I believed that a happy ending was not mine to have. I longingly watched people around me who I believed were unblemished and lived without shame. I deeply wished I could be more like them. The enemy used this to dig a deep hole in my heart at a very young age. This hole often separated me from others and I thought it separated me from God. I engaged in unhealthy ways to cope with the hurt, believing I was damaged goods. Even though I appeared to be an active, happy child through sports and school events, my shame haunted me through self-destructive behaviors - hair-pulling and skin picking.

My private pain became my public shame, but no one knew why I engaged in such behaviors. But, I knew and I told no one. I was taunted and ridiculed by classmates. Family, acquaintances, even strangers asked questions or made comments. I declined invitations to participate in social events because I feared further ridicule and embarrassment. My withdrawal only reinforced a belief that I was damaged, which reinforced my shame. I found myself living in the shadows at a very young age.

I did not date much in high school – the hidden hurt, the obvious physical flaws and blemishes. Yes, there was the occasional romantic crush, but my feelings were rarely returned and only strengthened my insecurities. In college, I hung out with several guys, but never had serious relationships with any that I met. Never feeling good enough and often embarrassed of my self-destructive behaviors, I was “happy just being the friend.” For me, it was a safe way to be around a guy and not deal with rejection; and more importantly, I would never have to be transparent. If anyone ever learned my secret, the ridicule and rejection would be crushing. I worked hard to hide it.

Eventually my worst fears came true. There was a young man who I came to trust. I shared my struggles, my insecurities, and, yes, the sexual abuse - still never having told my parents or family of my dark past. It was a risk, but he was kind, caring and yes, I thought he accepted me; the good and bad.

One night we had plans to go to dinner, or so I thought. Instead, he pulled a small brown paper bag from his car and handed it to me. I opened the bag and inside was a small paperback book written by a Christian counselor whose focus was helping victims of sexual abuse. He then said that he hoped that I would seek the help I needed so that one day I could be the person God wanted me to be. He shared that he could no longer be a part of my present and that he would not be a part of my future. Why? Because God had revealed to him that his wife would be untouched, she would be a virgin. He shared that he knew God had the right person for each of us, just not each other. He drove off and I walked back to my apartment - stunned, alone, and devastated. We never spoke again.

I screamed at God, I screamed at the world! How can this be?!? I had been rejected by a Christian man because of what someone else had done to me. If a godly man would not accept me, then who would? Who could? If “my God” really loved me, He would never allow me to experience so much pain and hurt. The insecurities and self-loathing connected to my past and the lies of the enemy gained a stronger foothold. The enemy used these thoughts to block my view of God’s love and grace. I was in my 20’s.

It was then that I determined that I would not be hurt again. It was then that I vowed that I would make my own way in this world! I would not be dependent on a man for financial means or emotional support. I would not be wounded by a man’s fickleness. I would not seek worth and value from a man. I would succeed on my own. My heart and spirit darkened and hardened. More lies from the enemy! One’s worth, one’s value, one’s sense of completeness comes only from God Almighty! But in my mind, God had let me down.

I listened to the enemy and I chose a path of independence. I built a wall, which I thought would bring protection; but instead, my heart and spirit hardened. Sadly, it often came across to others as haughtiness, arrogance, and pride. And while I did go out with various young men, my bitterness and indifference pushed them away, resulting in a type of self-fulfilling prophecy; acceptance by no man reinforced the belief that I needed no man. Unfortunately, I made many life compromises that took me further from the Truth.

Rather than viewing singleness as a gift from God and allowing His spirit to be a soothing balm to my pain and hurt, anger and bitterness became my compass. I turned my focus to my abilities. I created plans and followed my understanding. I pursued academic and professional endeavors, without once looking to God for guidance. As a single woman I purchased a vehicle, bought a modest home, and found some success early in a career in education. I raised my fist and declared, “I did it without anyone!” But I was alone. I was living in the shadows.

Yet, God IS merciful and loving. Praise His name! You see, throughout my life, I have had a mother who has loved God with all of her heart. Never has she quit praying for me, praying that I would seek God, listen to Him, find Him in His word, and find peace and respite. After many years of hardness, my heart softened; and I met a man that one day became my husband - Rick. Although, he shared his love early on, I struggled with my insecurities, my self-loathing, and my past. I was fearful of the future and could not commit to marriage. How could he love me?

Eventually, I shared my past and despite my doubts he accepted me. He LOVES me! He did what I thought no man would do or could do. Words cannot describe that moment. I was in a state of astonishment, amazement, speechless – I was loved and I could love! My ability to trust and love took time – many years, in fact. By this time, I was in my late thirties; the opportunity for children was quickly passing. But I did not worry; I believed time was still on my side. I welcomed the idea of children and a family – age would not be an issue.

Rick, however, was hesitant and rightly so. He is 17 years older than me. Even though he had no children, he was concerned about the challenges we might face as older parents. We agreed that we would trust God and welcome whatever future He had in store for us regarding children and a family. Rick asked my father for my hand in marriage and we married. I was 40 and he was 57!

We were determined to start a family right away. Being older, we knew we would face challenges raising children, but we both had lots of energy and were confident we could do it. I never had concerns about the ability to get pregnant. I had no history of problems, no previous pregnancies or miscarriages. At 40 I was in great health, I exercised regularly and was confident that by 45 we would have at least two children. My family line was extremely fertile - my maternal grandmother had 10 pregnancies having her last child at 48 years of age. Neither my mother nor sister had difficulty getting pregnant so why would I? It was the 21st century! Women were having children in their forties with no problems and I would too. I never worried, even though I had married later in life. I just knew God would bless. Why would He not? We were financially stable, mature; and, we would be great parents. We wanted to raise our kids in the church, with biblical values and around family.

However, about 6 months into our marriage, I began experiencing intermittent gastro-intestinal pain, chronic fatigue, a low-grade fever and over all malaise. Doctors were not able to identify the cause of my problems, possible IBS, but nothing was confirmed. It was during this time that I was supposed to be getting pregnant and having children! However, I was sick and intimacy was challenging. I took medication for over a year, with minimal relief and eventually made significant changes in my diet.

My health improved, but by then I was 44. It was during those four years, that I received a phone call from the ob-gyn following a routine visit. I was asked to have blood drawn to test hormone levels. Thinking nothing of it, I complied and at the follow-up visit I heard the words, “You might be in early menopause” followed by a serious conversation about fertility and the real possibility of a life without children. I was shocked and confused! I did not understand! I was in my early forties! How could I be pre-menopausal? My mother did not experience pre-menopausal symptoms until she was almost 50. I still had lots of time!

This changed everything. Now, I WANTED a baby. I NEEDED a baby. I left the doctor’s office in a daze and waited for Rick to return home from work. I dreaded having this conversation with him. By now he was 60 – how many men are planning to start a family at 60? Are you kidding, at that age, men are planning retirement! Rick’s response was - if God wanted us to have children, then God would make it happen, naturally. In his mind, if we had not yet had children, then it must be God’s doing. But NOT me! I was not giving up!

I scheduled an appointment with a fertility specialist so that we both could be tested. I was so relieved that Rick agreed. I was so nervous that he would not, but he said he would do it for me. As we drove to the fertility center, I was nervous, anxious, and excited. I had spoken to other women who had shared their struggles of becoming pregnant. But each had learned it was something minor – addressing polyps, taking one round of hormones – nothing major and all had had children! Our situation would be similar – an easy fix. So when we learned that it was something with me that was the reason for us not getting pregnant, I was not surprised – it would be an easy fix. How wrong I was!

As the doctor spoke, I became numb. She said that our best chance at becoming pregnant that would also result in a viable pregnancy was in vitro fertilization that included a donor egg and most likely multiple rounds would be needed – not definite, but probable. Reasons: my age, my ability to produce a “healthy egg”, my health challenges. Data and statistics were provided. We had a 9%-12% of getting pregnant – and that was with a donor egg. The percent decreased even more if we used one of my eggs! It was obvious that no matter whose eggs were used, most likely multiple attempts would be needed to obtain a viable pregnancy, which of course was still not certain.

I said nothing. I stared at the carpet. Tears filled my eyes and a knot the size of my fist filled my throat. I could not breathe. I wanted to scream. I looked up at Rick and he was looking down. I managed to open my mouth and ask a few questions, while looking hesitantly at Rick. The doctor answered my questions, but also sensing our unease suggested we take some time to think about what we wanted. The doctor walked out the door. It felt like all of the air was sucked out of the room when she left. I recall telling Rick jokingly that if he wanted to trade me in for a 27-year-old so that he could have a child, it would be okay. He replied, “All I need is you.” So sweet, yet so sad…because in my mind I was saying “All I need is you and a child.” Sigh.

As we sat there staring at the paperwork, I was fidgeting with the documents staring at the numbers which indicated the cost of having a child, the door opened. A young, female with a cheery smile walked in. She greeted us, gave us her name and introduced herself as a financial specialist. She was there to discuss payment options for IVF. Surely, she knew we were not there to purchase and finance a vehicle. I looked at Rick and he was looking at the financial specialist as she had already begun her spiel.

What she said, I don’t remember. She was there and then she was gone leaving two glossy folders – open – with pages of numbers, lots of numbers. The conversation was business-like and sterile. I was in a daze. I looked up at Rick and barely above a whisper, “Can we? Would you?” I wanted to add, “Do this for me,” but it sounded so selfish. How could I ask? I pushed the papers around and “had the conversation.” The staggering costs to become pregnant: donor eggs, medications, and, possibly, a surrogate. This cost would be thousands of dollars with no guarantee. I was desperate to try something, even if it meant going into debt. Rick, although, he wanted me to be happy, could not wrap his head around the cost for “something” with no guarantee. He fell back to his view – if God wanted us to have a child, God would make it happen. He did not want to go into debt.

Again, I was crushed. What I heard was that he did not want a child. He wanted our lives to stay as they were – childless. For me this equated to a purposeless, self-centered life without meaning. Why else were we put on this earth if not to be fruitful and multiply?!? I knew we were not going to come to an agreement at that time, so we thanked the medical staff for their time and the information. On our way out, I told the staff that we would call back when were ready to move forward and wished them a Merry Christmas. It was the beginning of December. But, I knew I would not be calling back. I knew this door was closed. I knew IVF was not an option.

I tried not to look at Rick as we drove out of the parking lot that day. I wanted him to stop the vehicle and say, “Cynthia, let’s try this. Even though there are no promises. We will try because having a family is important to you and to me.” Instead, I heard Rick say what he had said previously that day, “Is this in vitro really the right choice? Wouldn’t God give us a child if He wants us to have one?” But I knew the truth. He was older and having children was not a desire – this just was not for him. Again, I tried to hold back the tears that had ebbed and flowed throughout the morning.

Angrily, I said, “God has given scientists and doctors the wisdom and knowledge to treat and cure many diseases and health problems. How is infertility any different? Wouldn’t it be foolish not to go to a doctor who can treat and provide medication when one is sick? What is the difference?” Rick said nothing and I knew his silence meant he would no longer engage in this topic of conversation – he would not change his mind. We had been married for two years and four months. I was in my forties and my dream - to have children, a family - was snuffed out. Had God lifted my heart, only to allow it to be broken once more? Peace of mind no more. Life in the shadows…I found myself there again.

It was early December and the world around me was preparing for the “happiest time of the year” – Christmas. Neither of our hearts was happy by any stretch of the imagination. But, why deal with reality when I could deny my feelings by hiding in the spirit of the season? As Rick and I left the fertility center, I asked if he would take me to Hobby Lobby, thinking that maybe getting ready for Christmas would lighten our hearts. In the store, it WAS Christmas! Christmas carols were playing, people were shopping, mothers and their children were preparing for the “most wonderful time of the year.” And there we were walking up and down the aisles, in silence. Stinging tears streamed down my face while Rick walked uncomfortably by my side, unsure how to comfort me.

Still focused on changing his mind, I thought, maybe by selecting Christmas decorations together we would come to a consensus - we would agree that we WOULD bring a child into our home. How could I give up hope? Knowing it might “blow up” in my face, I still took the risk and spoke of medical interventions one last time. I blurted out, “Why not ask my sister to be our egg donor or surrogate, if necessary? She is still young enough. She would do it for me. The child would look like us. The child would still be ours to raise. Costs would be less since we would not have to pay her. We wouldn’t have any of the traditional worries that come with egg donors or surrogates. Others have done something similar – it can be done. Please! Please!” I held my breath. Rick shook his head and said, “No way. Not an option. What if your sister wanted the child? How could she not if she was the surrogate. No way. I am not talking about this anymore.” His expression was resolute and he turned away. All hope really was gone.

My face was hot and I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs. I had to do something fast to keep from losing control, from making a scene. I knew I was about to explode! I still don’t know how, but I managed to push my emotions away from the surface. I just started walking and found myself among the wreaths. I selected a wreath for our front door and began rummaging through the many decorations to add to it. While I had managed to keep from saying anything, had anyone turned their attention on me, they would have seen that my eyes and nose were faucets. I was emotionally spent. I just did not care what others thought anymore.

I felt a touch on my arm and looked up to see Rick. In his hand, he held an ornament - a white dove perched in a nest with a little egg. WOW! As soon as I saw it, I thought, you have got to be kidding me; even the fake bird gets a baby! The dove represented what I would never have: the chance to give birth, have children, and have a full nest. I know Rick did not see that, he was just trying to help. I wanted to walk away, but I just stared at him and the ornament in his hand.

I took the decoration from his hand and thanked him. I decided that it would be the focal point of the wreath. Each year, I wanted to look at the wreath and see life. Rather than focus on my loss, I would try to remember that the purpose of the Christmas season was to celebrate a life that had been given for me. I had the opportunity to be part of a spiritual family. I would try. Yet, I found that even the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior was a constant reminder of my loss. Why? Our Savior came as an infant. Nativity scenes, Christmas songs are filled with reminders of His sacrifice; that Jesus, the God-man, made His entrance onto this Earth as a baby. Pictures show Mary, a young mother, cradling this infant, loving the Christ-child. Even Christmas Eve services incorporate young children who re-enact the spectacular events from long ago. All annual reminders of what I would never have. I said I would try.

It has been many years since that day in December. I am reminded daily that there are no children being raised in my home. It is a very quiet place. No rowdy voices or clamoring of, “I need…” no clothes and toys strewn about; no laughter and no tears. Christmas, the start of each New Year and Mother’s Day seem to be the most challenging times of the year.

Each December, I recall the visit to the fertility center and the news we heard. I remember the difficult conversations that Rick and I had that day. I reflect on Christmas and how much of it shines a light on the joy of children during this special season and what children bring to a family. I verbally express my gratitude for my immediate and extended family – of which includes a niece and two nephews. I invest my time, my knowledge, and my life experiences with them. I am extremely grateful for the time that I have with them – time that seems to move faster each year. And yet, as each visit winds down with these wonderful children, I am wistfully aware that I must go home – to a childless home.

Each New Year brings with it “a new start”, a new chance. I focus on that – a new start only to hear media outlets announcing the first births of the New Year. The New Year is a great time, to start reading the Bible from start to finish once again – so I focus on finding truth and hearing God speak. Yet, I get bogged down in the small things such as Eve had children and her children had children, who had children and so on. It is a struggle not to get overwhelmed by the reminders, especially in places that are meant to train, nourish, and uplift.

It was during one of those times, I found myself sitting in my mother’s home angry (again) and crying. I shared with her that I believed that God had chosen not to shine His light on me and had forgotten me. I saw myself as a gnarled, twisted tree. I said to her, “I am a burnt tree! My body is broken. I have physical and mental health challenges, my heart is broken. I am struggling in my marriage, my womb is dead, adoption is not an option, and my career and community opportunities are limited.”

What had brought me to this state of despair? Over the last several years I had brought up the topic of adoption with my husband; either private adoption or adoption via the fostering of a child. Each time, his response was no. We went back and forth about his concerns, which were consistent: our age, energy, emotional costs, and finances. I just kept praying that God would change Rick’s heart. So, when I thought we were in a good place, I brought up the option of adoption, again. This time, his response was different. I guess, to him, I was beginning to sound like a broken record and this conversation had become tiring and irksome. He told me that adoption was not an option and having a family at his age was out of the question. He firmly asked that I no longer bring up the topic again. The door was shut, locked and the key thrown away.

During this same time, my career had also stalled. I had had high hopes that I would have a successful career that would in turn result in financial gain. This would be the solution to our problem – I would cover the cost of adoption. Instead, my early success had stalled and I found myself in a job that did not offer the position and financial gains I had hoped – no longer to be the monetary supply for the costs of adoption.

So there I was sitting with my mother, weeping and feeling forgotten by God. This was something I’d never done in my mother’s presence as an adult. I asked her, “Why does God ignore my pain and the death in me and around me? Why would He close Rick’s heart? Why would so many doors close all at the same time?! God’s word says He will bring life out of the ashes. I look around and there are people whose lives are in full bloom. Their lives are full and their branches are overloaded with fruit; children, full careers, full lives. Does God really love me? Does He really care? How can He if this is my state?” I continued, “Sure, some of these ashes are the result of the fires I lit, the ones I danced around and I jumped into. Yes, it is my fault that these fires burnt me, my dreams, and my life! But, He has brought life back to so many, why not ME!?”

My mother did not condemn me for being so vocal or asking such questions. She quietly reminded me that God had saved me from a life of eternal separation and had provided for me in many ways. It appeared that I had once again believed the lies of the enemy – as I focused on what I did not have rather than what I had been given as I compared my life to the lives of others. She said that the enemy was robbing me of my peace and joy as I focused on people and circumstances rather than focusing on God. She reminded me of the importance of having a grateful heart and a spirit of thanksgiving. She shared with me Psalms 138 (NASV):

“A Psalm of Thanksgiving: I will give You thanks with all my heart; I will sing praises to You before the gods. I will bow down toward Your holy temple; And give thanks to Your name for Your loving kindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name. On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul. All the kings of the earth will give thanks to You, O Lord, when they have heard the words of Your mouth. And they will sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord. For though the Lord is exalted, Yet He regards the lowly, but the haughty He knows from afar. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand will save me. The Lord will accomplish what concerns me; Your loving kindness, O Lord, is everlasting; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.”

When she finished reading the passage, I was quiet – finally, the pain in my heart began to subside. I wondered if a God so great would intervene and bring peace when sorrow and shadows had hung so heavy for so long. She once again urged me to lose myself in the presence of God Almighty and urged me to read Psalm 86 and memorize it so that as lies were presented by the enemy, I had scripture to uplift my soul and upon which to meditate. I knew this! I had just found to easier to be angry at God rather than allow his balm to calm my raging spirit – I had fallen into my old ways.

My mother prayed quietly asking God for the healing of my body and mind; but more importantly, she prayed for the healing of my heart and spirit. She prayed that God would return the peace that the enemy had stolen; reminding me as she prayed that the enemy’s goal is to keep my focus off of the Creator, God Almighty. She ended her prayer, thanking God for me and His blessings. We spoke more and finally, I left, hoping that I could feel His peace. I said I would try.

But then there is Mother’s Day. Yes, I celebrate my mother on that day. I am extremely grateful she is a part of my life. Yet, it is also a day when I am reminded of that elusive title – mother – a title, a crown I will never wear. Every local church celebrates mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers and even great-great grandmothers on that day. The church I attend does the same and at times, focuses on the childless woman. It is through the form of a church-wide prayer; a plea for Divine intervention to end the barrenness of those who ask. Childless women are asked to stand while the pastor shares the story of a couple that was once childless. This couple stood for prayer for four years and then God intervened – they had quadruplets! The implication is that those whose faith is great and those who God chooses to bless will one day announce the joy of new life, new birth.

For years I stood - sometimes alone, sometimes with my parents, and sometimes with my spouse. I no longer stand. I avoid the service or out of respect (guilt) sit stoically next to my mother – celebrating her life, her sacrifice, her gift to me. However, during the prayer for childless couples, I hold my breath and try not to feel the shame of being childless. I find myself thinking on other things as the traditional message on that day centers on the virtuous woman who is called blessed by her children. I have even wondered what my mother’s thoughts are during this “special service.” I dare not ask – not yet. And yet, it is not only the service that brings a feeling of dread. On that day, even a walk through the halls of the church feels like a walk of shame. I feel judgment and condemnation as if there is a scarlet letter emblazoned on my clothing – informing the world of my limitations as a woman, my shame – no blessings.

Recently, my mother emailed me some notes from her Bible study. One of the notes said, “Comparison robs you of contentment.” She suggested that comparing my life to that of others was the expression of a lack of gratitude for all that God had done. I thought, how can my wanting children be a spirit of ungratefulness? How can the desire to have children be ungodly? I read on and her words asked me to determine if any of the following were true in my life:

1) Did I have a desire of the “things” of this world – even children - rather than a desire for intimacy with God;

2) Did I have a distorted perspective of God that had resulted in confusion – lies about my worth as a childless woman – distracting me from God’s purpose for my life?

3) Was I listening to Satan – who encouraged me to focus on my insecurities, leading me to doubt God’s goodness and desire for completeness in my life?

4) Was I listening to Satan – who continually reminding me of past mistakes trying to convince me that I live under the heavy hand of God’s judgment rather than His mercy?

5) Did I live in a state of fear, work, and/or anxiety – all used by Satan to block out the voice of God?

6) Was I allowing Satan to promote discord, chaos, and division – because I did not consistently make time to listen to God through His word?

As I reflected on her email, I admitted areas of weakness and thanked God for my mother and the wisdom He poured into her. I thanked Him for the life He had given me and the opportunity to serve Him, no matter the capacity. I read Psalm 77 and calmed my heart before Him.

While I no longer feel the agonizing distress of not having children, I still struggle with the occasional and unwelcome tug of sadness. There are the obvious moments during the holidays and celebrations of new life, when I wince and think, that could have been me. Then there are the out-of the-blue moments, when I see an infant or toddler reaching up while their mother smiles and endearingly picks up her child. Or when I walk my dogs in the neighborhood, and I see parents teaching their child how to ride a bike or kick a ball. Or when I see a teen or college-aged individual, shopping or just talking to a parent, I feel a faint ache – knowing moments such as these will not be mine to share with my own. But I do not lament over these moments, I only pray that these occasions are cherished by family and not quickly forgotten.

I do not know that I will ever stop feeling “childlessness” tugging at my heart. However, I am determined to be content with God’s plan. I am determined to recognize and acknowledge God’s blessings and His outpouring of mercies and love. I acknowledge that by listening to the lies of the enemy during my life, I opened the door that allowed him to throw a shadow of condemnation over me. I could have been in the shadow of God Almighty; His shadow of protection and security from the pounding blows of an enemy who is already defeated. I know that on this journey, with or without children, I have the opportunity to know God and honor Him. Because He lives, I have strength and peace. He calls me to Him and I rest in the shadow in the greatness of God Almighty.