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.

 

Whenever I was awake I wondered what God was trying to teach me. More patience, perhaps? It is obviously not a lesson I've learned easily or quickly. While I'm still unsure of all the lessons He wanted me to learn, it is apparent I didn't learn it all the first time around.

 

Six weeks later, I found myself back in the exact same place - this time for seven days. What amazes me still is the incredible compassion and efficiency of the Body of Christ in action. Everyone around me - dear friends and people I hardly know - exercised their gifts so beautifully that I never had a reason to worry about my family.

 

Homeschool friends have taught my sons Spanish, shuttled them to activities, and fed my whole family. Women from church have brought dinner after delicious, home-cooked dinner. My pastor and a devoted sister in the Lord were brave enough to venture into my hospital room, offering prayers and a healing touch. Friends and relatives took days off of work or sacrificed hours of their own time to make sure my children flourished while Mom was away.

 

When we thought we had learned all of these lessons and more, the Lord showed us that there was still more to learn. Home from the hospital for about two weeks, I was feeling better. And then one lazy summer afternoon, I answered the phone to hear my doctor's voice. I knew instantly that it was time to brace myself. While he's a caring physician, he's not in the habit of calling just to chat.

 

Within minutes, my mind was racing: Just what was Trisomy 18? Why is it "incompatible with life," according to the medical world? And, couldn't they have misread the results?

 

It wasn't a certain diagnosis, but for two dark days, we fervently sought the Lord's will. I didn't know how to pray. We had prayed for this child's health far before conception and probably every day since. Yet, I don't think believers are exempt from the sorrows of life in this fallen world.

 

But what comfort I found when I simply asked. As I sat on my bed with the Bible open, God reminded me how He "made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother's womb." (Psalm 139) "He made us wonderfully complex! His workmanship is marvelous," and He watched as "I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb." He "saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day has passed."

 

We knew with certainty - but it helped to be reminded - that the Lord has a plan especially for this child of His whom He has known since the beginning of time.

 

That same night, the Lord also reminded me how he worked through Elisha to give the old, barren woman a son, and how He later used Elisha to revive the young boy. The Lord heals, He restores life, and He promises fruitfulness - even in the most barren of places.

 

Answering my confusion about how to pray, the Lord pointed me right to His words in Luke 11, where Jesus encouraged disciples to be persistent in prayer.

 

Finally, He answered our prayers mightily and gave us a high-tech view into the womb to see our perfectly formed son, his little heart beating strongly, everything measuring correctly, and those precious, tiny 10 toes and 10 fingers waving at us.

 

All of this and I'm only five months pregnant. Imagine what we have left to learn. Meanwhile, we have the not-to-be-missed opportunity of giving God the unspeakable glory He is due. "For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised." (1 Chron. 16:35)

 

Stephanie Gerken lives in northwest Ohio with her husband, Jeff, and their five blessings, including four sons (one of them due in December) and one daughter. She is a homeschool mother, writer, and editor.