A few months ago, I paced the cold, tile floor of my bathroom waiting for the line to turn blue or pink or some combination of confusing lines that leave you scratching your head. Although my husband and I had been praying for the extraordinary blessing of another child for months, I was beginning to wonder if God had long ago planned that we have just the four children that were stirring in their beds that dark April morning.


Just the four children? I hear that often, almost daily, everywhere I go - everywhere except homeschool conventions. There, we're "normal," and even have a family a tad bit on the small side. But sometime during this adventure of homeschooling, we were introduced to the idea of allowing God to plan our family size. It was an idea that seemed gloriously simple and obedient when I was 34 with three children.


Now, back to the pacing in the bathroom. It was the beginning of a journey much farther than the 10 steps back and forth in more bathroom - and it only confirms what the Lord can teach us when we give Him the freedom.


That stick didn't really turn blue or pink. For nine minutes it did nothing. "Patience, My child," was the lesson that seemed to be developing. I furiously read the directions again, especially the part about how the test is invalid after 10 minutes, when - oh, yes! - it really did turn blue or pink. But then again, it was supposedly invalid. So the next day, we repeated the whole scenario, right down to it turning colors at the 10-minute mark.


Were we supposed to be elated and start counting the days until December? We didn't know, so I called the doctor. He should know. His nurse sent me to the lab for a good, old-fashioned blood draw. I had plenty of time to think and pray while I impatiently waited for an hour to get stuck with a needle. "Patience, My child," was echoing through my head - again.


But a few hours later, I was counting the days until December. God had apparently planned for at least five little Gerken children and we felt showered with His blessings, even a few weeks later when the waves of nausea hit with a vengeance. But then the migraines quickly followed, homeschooling slowed and became nothing short of painful, and I finally landed in the hospital.


For four days in May, Mom vanished. The boys lost their teacher, my daughter lost her "best friend," and my toddler just couldn't find his mommy. With no contingency plan in place, we didn't know what to do - and the pain was so excruciating I hardly cared. After days of no relief, I even suggested to God that He simply take me Home - and not back to the white house with green shutters and a picket fence.


Even though I know what I believe, it was nearly impossible to follow the Apostle Paul in  "delighting in weaknesses ... in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor. 12: 10) Oh, how weak I was.


As I lay in the hospital bed, unable to eat and barely able to sleep or find any comfort, I found it challenging to "rejoice in the Lord always." (Phil. 4:4) I felt like a spiritual sluggard, but rationalized that I wouldn't so much mind hanging out in a hospital being pumped full of mind-numbing medicine if it were not for the four children left behind.