“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercy never comes to an end. It is new every morning….” [Lamentations 3:22-23]
Isn’t it amazing how a scripture that’s so hopeful can come from the Book of Lamentations? Gut-wrenching, noisy, sorrowful lamentation. It’s real. It’s painful. It sounds like a woman in labor. But where is there anything more hopeful than the sound of new life?
If you’ve been following my entries in the past two months, you’ve read about a single-and-pregnant woman who needed to trust in God’s mercy and faithfulness for her future. We know that pregnancy is meant to be a joyful time for a new mother-and-father-to-be, a time of expectation, announcements, invitations and baby showers, planning and hope. New life is a gift that’s made to be shared. But what happens when a woman is pregnant and “shouldn’t be”? How often does an unwed mother receive congratulations, especially when there’s no baby’s father in sight? That’s a bit of what lamentation feels like: empty, lonely, and sad. That’s when a woman needs the help of God!
As you have already read, God had been supplying all my needs (see Philippians 4:19), using a number of heartening circumstances and many generous people. Up to this point, all my needs had been met. In early August — actually ten days before my due date — I gave birth to a strong and healthy baby girl, with the plan in place that a couple, known through Catholic Social Services, was eager to adopt my daughter.
“Does a woman forget her child?” (Isaia 29:15) No! That would never happen. The sense of emptiness leads to years of sighs, cries of grief, lamentation and loneliness, and years of wondering and not knowing. But is it possible to give the gift of life to someone else? Yes. But it’s definitely not easy.
Having given birth, I was now free to “get on with life.” There was only one thing I still lacked: Employment opportunities had come…and gone! Most positions in my intended field — elementary education or, ironically, religious education — would have been filled in May or in the earlier months of summer. Again I needed to trust that God would again “pull me out of the pit of destruction, out of the mud of the swamp, ” (Psalm 40:2). The Bible now became for me a lifeline! I needed to believe another of God’s words, this one from Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope.” Three times earlier I had been invited for the same out-of-state interview at “St. Mary’s Parish”, but I was far too embarrassed to present myself. Each time I received a call, I had a totally legitimate reason for being unable to make the trip. Now I was sure that all positions had been filled, as the school year would begin in only two weeks. Amazingly, while I was still sore from childbirth, I received a fourth invitation to come for an interview. This time I was available.
The interview was scheduled for a Tuesday evening. As I met with the recruitment committee, I could hear music and singing from another part of the building. The songs were those used at the charismatic prayer meetings that I had attended two or three years earlier. As the successful interview concluded, I asked and was told that, yes, there was in fact such a prayer group in the parish. This was the personal and prayer support that I knew I would be needing. Once again, God had my needs in mind! Our God IS an awesome God!
The very next day, I was offered an excellent position which would last for five years and provide a new anchor for my life. It was with amazement that I later realized that the date of this interview was my original “due date.” My heart overflowed with a great sense of gratitude and wonder at seeing again the Lord’s love and mercy for me. I still marvel as well at the tenacity of this group of people from “St. Mary’s” who also trusted in God. Why they waited for me, I’ll never know!
The whirlwind of moving and starting a new job filled my time and my empty arms. Nevertheless, when I saw newborn babies, young children, or pregnant women, I experienced intense grieving, sadness, and emptiness. Months later after I had developed a trusting relationship with one of the women in my new parish, I shared the cause of my sadness. It was met with compassion and understanding rather than judgment. God is so good!
You may ask, “Did you ever meet your daughter?” The story continues; tune in the beginning of March! More twists and turns follow…!
So why am I sharing story? First of all, we can reassert that no matter what wrong or evil we may have done, God is “patient, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) God’s mercy and forgiveness are available for all who seek it. God is a loving Father; He cares as much for the mothers as for their babies. Second, there are many, many women who are where I had been. We pray for pregnant women, that they would give birth rather than have an abortion. We pray for couples who wish to adopt. Do we also pray for the woman who is making the decision to raise her child alone or to surrender that child for adoption? What can we do to care for women who still grieve the loss of a child given as a gift to another couple?
When we speak of our pregnancies, how can we include the women who don’t feel free to speak of theirs? How can we as women be more welcoming to those women who are “silent mothers”? How can we support the healing of those women whose stories remain untold and yet are sorrowfully remembered? When Mother’s Day is celebrated, how may we grieve with (and honor!) those women who know they are mothers but are not free to acknowledge their motherhood? or too embarrassed? or whose stories are still too fresh or too painful?
As always, we can pray.
- Mighty and merciful God! Father of all children! Hear the prayers that are cried out to you on behalf of mothers and fathers who have generously given their children to adoption as well as those who have suffered miscarriage or infant death. Hear the prayers of those parents who are grateful to an often unknown woman who has given her heart as well as her child to them.
- Hear the cries of sorrow an emptiness that come from other countries and other sides of the world, cries of women who had no choice but to give their babies into other arms rather than risk the death of their little ones.
- Lord Jesus, help those agencies and those people who try to save these little ones, especially those children with special and unique needs for care. Help those sons and daughters who have been surrendered and adopted to give thanks to their birth parents for the gift of life. Give the gift of repentance to those men who have fathered children but have never acknowledged their responsibility or their loss.
- Help all women and men to use their gift of fertility in healthy, mature, and godly ways. May those in the entertainment industry and screen writers to portray the gift of sexuality in ethical, moral, and godly ways. Help parents and other adults to speak truth to our youth about the gift of sexuality. Have mercy, O Lord, on our sick society. Heal us! Drive out the thief (John 10:10) and give us Life in healthy abundance, as You have promised.
- We pray also for the general and financial needs of Elizabeth Ministry and RECLAiM Sexual Health, and especially for Jeannie Hannemann, our founder, who continues to experience serious back problems. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the healing that you can give her!
- Thank you, Lord, for Bruce Hannemann’s successful knee replacement. Lord, it’s so good to see Bruce not limping!
- Gracious Father, protect children in the womb, especially those of “Natalie” who has just learned they’re expecting triplets!
- For all the needs that You see, Father, those that are hidden deeply in our hearts,
- In Jesus’ Name we pray! Amen!