A girl of barely 20, unmarried and pregnant who cried herself to sleep wondering how she could care for the baby growing in her womb.
Two strong women and one unlikely friendship.
But God…God knew that these two women from opposite sides of the motherhood journey could grow to be close friends and gain a wealth of compassion.
I am so honored to have my friend, Courtney, guest post for me today. I met Courtney a few years ago when I was a preschool teacher. We started at the preschool at the same time. She is such a sweet girl with a beautiful heart, and we became fast friends in spite of our 15-year age difference. I about died when I found out that I was starting my freshmen year of college when she was starting kindergarten. Talk about feeling old!!
By the time I met Courtney, God had blessed me with children, but I was getting ready to go through IVF again with my totsicles. I am so blessed that Courtney was brought into my life for a fresh reminder that every single life that God conceives is an absolute blessing. Whether it is planned, unplanned, or through fertility treatments. Every. One. When I was in the thick of the infertility struggle hearing about an unplanned pregnancy was devastating to me. Now I have the benefit of Courtney’s friendship and my 20/20 rearview mirror clarity to have a clearer perspective on God’s plan. God’s plan is always perfect even if it “messes up” our plan…
Every mother has the day she found out she was pregnant etched into her memory. Some, like Steph, had a hard, long journey to get there. I’m sure that day she, as well as many others, felt joy, excitement, and pure happiness. I can only imagine that she felt some type of redemption. This one test was her redemption that made every single obstacle worth it.
My story of redemption began the day I found out I was going to be a mom. The day that I found out I was going to be a mom was an incredibly hard day. It breaks my heart to say joy, excitement and happiness were not any of the emotions I felt at the time. I was barely twenty, had an incredibly rough past and wanted a new start that year. Charlie, my now husband, and I both sobbed while holding the “positive” test in our hands. I’m not exaggerating when I say I took eight of them before I actually believed I was indeed pregnant. We were devastated, scared and simply broken. In the whirlwind of emotions that we were experiencing, not a single one of them was joy.
Although Charlie and I knew long before this pregnancy test that we were going to get married one day, getting pregnant now, was not a part of our plan. We saw our future together from the beginning, but we had so many things we wanted to do. I lined up a new summer job, and an amazing mission trip opportunity to finally go to Africa was in the works. My heart was in Africa, I felt so called to the orphans and babies there, I wanted to be Jesus to them. I wanted to love on some babies, not have one of my own! Yes, it is possible to be a follower of Christ and still mess up. I missed the mark big this time…but God.
You see in the midst of the hurt, in the midst of telling our parents and fearing the wrath of God through them God gave us such grace. Our parents gave us such grace. Was there disappointment? Did it hurt more than words to tell my parents that their first grandbaby wasn’t conceived in wedlock? Was I tormented with the shame every time I saw someone that found out? Yes, yes and yes! I lived in Small Town, USA and everyone knew everyone and everyone’s personal business. I knew it wouldn’t be long before people figured out why we got engaged so quickly and why we planned a wedding so fast.
Charlie and I didn’t get married because I was pregnant. I loved him with all of my heart, and I knew this was the man God had for me to marry. This pregnancy just sped up the timeline. Did I have the wedding of my dreams? Nope. I certainly didn’t feel worthy of wearing white or worthy of my dad walking me down the aisle, but that didn’t stop him. That my friends, is unconditional love. That is redeeming love. The kind that draws a dad, who isn’t one to stand out in front of a crowd, to stop in the middle of a choir special in a Southern Baptist church and walk off stage in front of 500 people. He walked down the middle aisle to sit with his broken baby girl who was alone and broken. The fear that he faced didn’t stop him from holding on to me as I sobbed while they finished singing “Through the Fire.” He refused to let me be alone in my own brokenness. The whispers of everyone in the room wondering what was going on or the ones who knew and looked at us with such judgment, they were not stopping my dad from getting to me. I dare say that’s the kind of love that Jesus has for us.
I fought with depression during the pregnancy and after my sweet Anna Claire was born…But God. Even though there was so much hurt and brokenness that took a great deal of time to heal, I never looked at her as a mistake. I never blamed her. I never felt like she wrecked my dreams. Jesus was there through it all; he never left me. He never left us. Our plans were derailed, but God took our brokenness and began shaping way more than we could imagine. Our precious Anna Claire was a living, breathing version of God’s redeeming love. True beauty from our ashes. The second year of marriage brought another positive pregnancy test, and another round of hurting, anxiety and fear. This time the process wasn’t as hard to swallow, but we had no idea how the heck we were going to afford another baby. We were barely doing it then…but God. He never left us.
Honestly, I wondered if I would ever be able to have joy finding out I was pregnant. I met Stephanie at our preschool, and I was blown away by her juggling 3 kids and working part time. I was struggling with a 2 year old and being pregnant again. I only spent a few days in the classroom with her, but I loved every moment. I felt so much compassion from her every time I nearly broke down talking about our situation. She even recommended I read one of the best books I’ve ever had my hands on, Unglued by Lisa Terkhuerst. God used her and that book to speak volumes. I didn’t know about her infertility struggles right off the bat, but once I did I felt the surge of guilt all over again. My own insecurities ruled my heart instead of God’s redeeming love.
The next school year God placed Anna Claire in Stephanie’s class. I wasn’t returning because over the summer I had my spunky Cailey and was on maternity leave. I had no idea that Steph was going through her final battle of infertility while Anna Claire was in her class. I only knew that once again I was fighting some major demons of Postpartum Depression. I had nothing in me to love on my girls or anyone around me. I felt so alone, empty, and worthless. I didn’t speak a word of this to a soul. All I knew is that every Tuesday and Thursday Anna Claire would light up to see Ms. Stephanie, and her love radiated from her every single time. Even though I didn’t realize it, God was using Anna Claire to love Ms. Stephanie unconditionally while she was fighting for her own baby. God broke down some major walls Stephanie and I built up. They all came down with redeeming love, long before we even realized it.
My Anna Claire is almost five now, Cailey is 2, and Stephanie loves on them every time she gets a chance. I never planned to have baby at 20, or at 23 but God’s plan is always better than we could even imagine. Charlie and I have been married for over 5 years now and can say that we are more in love and in tune with God than ever before. All because of redeeming love.
How can you allow God to use redeeming love to break down some walls in your own heart? My hope is that one day I will be able to look down at a pregnancy test and see a positive and feel never ending, undeniable JOY. I have no doubt that one day redeeming love will win, and I won’t have any negative or shameful emotions.