While maybe not as much as in decades past, there still seems to be an expected order of steps in life – graduate, find a job, get married, and have kids. For Carter and me, we were ticking off the boxes; we got married in 2007 after our post-secondary education, found employment, and were enjoying life as a young couple. Since we were married young (I was 21), we were content to wait a few years before having kids so we could settle into married life together first. About 5 or so years in, we felt ready for the next step: start a family. Well, months passed … and months turned into years … and we wondered if we could even have kids.
What do you do when what you’re anticipating will happen … simply doesn’t come to pass? Can you relate? With COVID-19, I’m sure many people can; you had plans for things to happen this year only to have everything put on hold – perhaps some things indefinitely. For us, there was a lot of tentative but honest pillow talk. How badly did we want to have children? Should we get tested for infertility? Should we explore fertility treatments or adoption? There was a lot we had to sort out, not only individually but as a couple.
The Deepest Desires of the Heart
I remember several years ago Heather Wile was praying for me during a one-on-one meeting with her in her office, and she asked God to grant Carter and me the deepest desire of our hearts. I remember tears streaming down my face because at that point I just didn’t even know what the deepest desire of my heart was anymore. Did I really want to be a mom? What if I didn’t? What if I did, but didn’t want to adopt or pursue fertility options? There was a lot of angst in my heart. And while Carter and I were always open and transparent with each other, we didn’t really talk about it with others. Sure, our small group knew, and our parents knew without many words being spoken. A lot was left unsaid with those around us, and looking back I know it was emotionally and spiritually unhealthy (for me at least), but it just felt like something we didn’t want to broadcast to the world.
And yet, Carter and I came to a place where we both felt God was calling us to be content in our circumstances; to be content with being a family of 2. Neither of us felt adoption or exploring fertility options was right for us. (Sidebar: if you’re facing infertility, the ability to have children through means such as adoption, surrogacy, or fertility treatments is God-given and wonderful. It just wasn’t our journey.) And you know what? God gifted us with contentment. Period. There was no desperation or angst; just peace. We had each other, but more importantly, Christ was (and is!) enough for us.
Open Hands, Open Hearts
Then something clicked into place for both of us: if it was just going to be the 2 of us, if having kids wasn’t going to be “the next step” for us, what did God want us to say “yes” to? What was God calling us to do and be as a family of 2? We entered a season of prayer and a posture of open hands, open hearts to whatever God wanted for us. We began thinking about missions, but weren’t sure what that should look like. Then, when we were asked if we wanted to go on the 2018 short-term mission trip to Thailand with FAC in partnership with For Freedom International, we knew God had our “yes.” I had never been overseas before, and we had never experienced a mission trip together before. It was one big unknown, but our hearts and hands were open! It turned out to be an amazing eye-opening experience, teaching us about how big our God is and how He’s at work in a place like Phuket. On the trip, we asked ourselves if this was it – if God was going to call us to something more long-term overseas. We were open, but didn’t sense that was our next step.
Then one evening, Sara, one of the team members, pulled us aside for a private conversation with the 2 of us. She tentatively shared that she had a dream that she was babysitting our child. God imprinted Exodus 23:26 on her heart: “ … and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full lifespan.” She knew our circumstances with not having kids, and didn’t know what this was supposed to mean for us, but she felt a responsibility to share this with us. We didn’t really know how to respond; we were in a place of being at such peace with not having kids. But we thanked her, and knew we had to sit with this for a while.
Well, life got busy returning home after the trip; we sort of forgot about the dream (or at least it was on the back-burner of our minds). Fast-forward to July, and I found out I was pregnant. Let me tell you, I was in shock! I suppose I shouldn’t have been, considering Sara’s dream – but there I was, totally in shock. When you’ve conditioned your mind and heart to be okay with one reality and suddenly without warning it changes, it’s a bit hard to let it sink in! I told Carter and he was so happy. The happiness for me sunk in once it became more real to me.
More Than Enough
Teagan was born March 4, 2020 – right before all the COVID-19 self-isolation and quarantine restrictions came into effect in Calgary, so we’re super thankful for God’s timing in her arrival which allowed not only Carter to be with me during her birth but also my mom from Ontario. Now she is nearly 8 months old and absolutely thriving, and we couldn’t imagine life without her. But here’s the thing … If God chose not to give us Teagan, we would’ve been okay. You see, God shifted our hearts so our greatest desire became to simply follow Jesus’ lead in our marriage and in our lives. I know full well there are people who will never get the thing they cry out to God for, and that’s hard. But I truly believe God can take our cries for a spouse, or children, more finances, or whatever it is we desire – and transform it into simply wanting more of Him. Like the lyrics of the old chorus: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus / Look full in His wonderful face / And the things of earth will grow strangely dim / In the light of His glory and grace.”
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Julie McPhail, currently enjoying maternity leave with Teagan, previously shared her story of contentment and desire during our summer teaching series on July 4/5. Want to read more stories from the summer series? Read and watch them all in the Fall 2020 edition of Storyline today!