“Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.”
There are moments in our lives when the Maestro invites us to join in the song, when the Designer beckons us to take a sneak peek at His design, and when the Author writes us into His story.
That was how I felt back in the fall of 2016.
It was August and we were on a Staff Retreat in the beautiful and quaint Galena, Illinois. We had rented “Big House” (as my older boys called it) and had stuffed each full-time staff - along with their family - into one of the many rooms. We spent 2 1/2 days laughing, cooking, eating, playing, and praying together.
During supper on the last evening, my sister-in-law (who at the time was serving as our Children’s Pastor) explained that we would be doing something a little differently for Staff Christmas that year. We would be participating in a Name Exchange and giving the gift of a Word.
“A word fitly spoken
is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”
We were instructed to spend time with the Lord and ask Him for that “fitly spoken word” for whoever’s name we drew. We would then share it with them at Christmas.
She proceeded to place pieces of paper with everyone’s printed name into a bowl. The bowl was passed around the large kitchen table and it made itself to me. I took a name and put it in my pocket.
As I returned to our room that night to put the children to bed, I pulled the piece of paper out of my pocket and unfolded it. It said:
I took the Name Exchange seriously and in the weeks that followed stilled my heart before the Lord - asking Him to give me a Word for her.
He was faithful and answered my prayer on October 22, 2016 during my morning Devotion.
What I felt in my heart, however, did not make sense in my head.
The scripture that jumped off the page and resonated in my heart was this:
“Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” says the LORD. “Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?” says your God.
And in so many words, I found myself praying for Rachel’s womb.
I taped that small piece of paper inside my bathroom vanity, and every morning as I got ready - I prayed for Rachel.
Now, my sister-in-law is a pretty private person, and yet, she’s allowed me into her life. I feel privileged to be invited into her corner, as well as blessed to have her in mine.
However, with this particular subject, I wasn’t going to abuse my privilege and ask that question that can be so pointed sometimes: “So…is it Baby Time yet?!”
I decided I was going to be respectful of her privacy and resorted to being on a need-to-know basis. I was going to allow her husband, Jeff, and her the bliss of establishing their marriage - even if said potential Aunt was a little eager to snuggle a newborn again.
Fast-forward to November. We were hosting our Annual Pastors’ Staff Egg Roll Night and Rachel came early to help me cook the cabbage, brown the hamburger, and soak the chow mein vegetables in soy sauce.
Over my kitchen bar, I asked the questions that we always do when we finally get a chance to catch up:
How are you? How’s your husband? What’s new? and “Oh! I almost forgot…we are getting rid of a lot of our baby stuff…do you want it?”
I’ll never forget that moment. She took a breath and I watched her eyes tear-up.
“About that…” she quietly said.
She went on to slowly explain that they had (in fact) been trying…but to no avail. They were creeping up on 18-months of a whole slew of negative lines.
I had no idea.
The pain was real, the lies were thick, the tears were hovering near the surface - and the party was due to arrive within the hour.
I decided in that moment that my gift couldn’t wait until Christmas. I was going to give it to her early.
I ran and got my Bible and prayer journal and told her that I had drawn her name for the Name Exchange.
As I opened my Bible and thumbed through my journal to find the entry, it suddenly all made sense.
All along I had been praying for her womb - without even processing that perhaps her womb was in need of prayer.
They were staring at Barren and her friend, Infertile, in the face and were experiencing the raw, emotional pain that it brings.
I read Isaiah 66:9 to her and told her that I wasn’t going to stop praying.
She gave me a soft smile, I gave her a big hug, and the party showed.
Months passed. I continued to pray.
I’ve heard it said that when God lays someone on your heart that you should pray for them like it were your own. Like it was your own pain, your own difficult circumstance, and your own impossible situation.
I did too. I began praying for her more frequently - not just in the mornings as I got ready anymore. I prayed for her throughout my day - whenever I thought of her or saw her.
I also prayed for her more fervently. I specifically remember one Saturday night…
We had our evening church service and I had returned home to feed the kids their bedtime snack and put them to bed. I was at the kitchen sink doing my dishes - crying - when my husband came home.
Slightly embarrassed - but not enough to dry it all up - I explained that my heart was so extremely heavy for Rachel.
I felt like the Lord had allowed me to feel some of her pain in order to understand it’s rawness, vulnerability, fear, and doubt.
I remembered my own pain of miscarrying twice - before we conceived and had given birth to our firstborn son.
However, my pain had been a little different. I had conceived - three times, in fact. And the third time resulted in a viable birth. My pain had been a “when.” When will I stay pregnant long enough to keep a baby?
Her pain was a whole new level of despair. Her pain was an “if.” She didn’t even know if she could conceive.
I wept over the sink that night. I begged God to answer Rachel’s prayer that had - somewhere along the line - become my own.
Months passed. I continued to pray.
And then something happened that only God could do.
I’ll never forget the day (June 4, 2017 to be exact). It was a Sunday afternoon and our church had a Golf Outing. My husband/pastor/golfer was a part of the Tournament and was going to be on the greens for the entire afternoon. Our oldest had tagged along and our younger three were all laying down for a much-needed Sunday afternoon nap.
We were currently remodeling our bedroom and I seized the moment to get some uninterrupted painting done. I had my Pandora station playing and was rolling Creamy onto our shiplapped bedroom wall when someone barged into my bedroom.
It was Rachel.
Her hands were behind her back, her face was pale, and her eyes were swimming in shock.
She very quietly said (since the children were sleeping in the bedrooms next door), “I need you to look at something.”
She proceeded to move her hands from behind her back and show me what they were holding.
It was a pregnancy test.
Since her husband was golfing with mine, she needed me to verify that she was seeing correctly…Are there really two lines? Is that second line dark enough? Does that mean it’s positive?
Does that mean I’m pregnant??
Now, I’ve peed on and have looked at my fair share of those…and what I saw took my breath away.
I looked at her and said, “Rachel, you’re pregnant!” pulling her into a giant emotional hug.
God answered her prayer that day. And since her prayer had become my prayer, He answered mine as well.
But God does that. He invites us into the chapters of other people’s stories - allowing us to walk alongside some of their pain and sorrow so we can experience some of their celebration and joy.
A part of Rachel’s testimony is: “After two years of infertility, nine months of sickness and scares, and 46 hours of labor, Evie filled our hearts and finally our arms. Her name means “life” and she’s lived up to every bit of her name so far. We cherish her so much, and believe our miracle-working God spoke big purpose and calling into her when He spoke life.”
This week, my darling niece turned one-year-old, and I sense that her life will be a continual reminder - as well as a testimony - of God being faithful.
He remembers. He opens wombs that are shut. He’s bigger than the words Barren and Infertile. He’s stronger than Sorrow and Pain. And He brings forth life as He is the Author of it.
So, the next time the Maestro invites you to join in the song, the Designer beckons you to take a sneak peek at His design, and the Author writes you into His story - take the name and pray like it were your own.
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