hope seen in an empty room

We’ve lived in five homes over the course of our four years of hoping to start a family. I’ve written about these transitions in other places, but as I have considered Infertility Awareness Week this week, the memories of those houses flashed back across my mind.

In each home, I knew which room would be the nursery. The first house, our first home-owner experience, had a Jack-and-Jill bath downstairs that connected our room to the intended nursery. We decided to buy a house partially because it was “time” to move out of our rent house, but also because we knew we wanted to start a family, so we thought it would be house, then a baby shortly after that.

The house we almost-bought in Conway, the one we wanted to buy but instead rented for six weeks, had this incredible front bedroom with a wall of bookshelves and a window seat–it was dreamy, with huge windows and the perfect old-house charm. A little girl lives in that room now, which makes me so happy. I think it might have been wasted on a boy.

The house we did buy in Conway had a front bedroom with sweet afternoon light. Ridley would curl up in the sun while I worked from my desk, looking out the window at the kids playing on the street.

I suppose the one exception to this list is our apartment we lived in for six months when we first moved back to Fayetteville. It was less than 800 square feet with only one bedroom, so we probably would have had a bassinet in the corner (if we hadn’t been able to start immediately looking for houses if we found out we were pregnant).

And in our current house, of the two extra rooms, my favorite is the one at the very back. It’s across the hall from our room, furthest from the living room, and I just get this feeling when I walk in, especially in the mornings.

In each of our houses, I have used the intended nursery as an office. I have my white desk and a couple of bookcases with the office-y books––Bible commentaries, ministry resources, and binders of notes from old studies. In our current house, I was planning a cozy chair in one corner with a soft rug and a convenient blanket, perfect for early morning quiet times.

The reason I started thinking about these rooms and our houses this week, was that in each house I filled that empty room with something else–and with each move, the room became more and more planned out. In our first house, it was pretty bare. I don’t think I even hung anything on the walls; I thought it would be changed pretty quickly once we got pregnant, so I didn’t invest too much thought into it.

But slowly, I accumulated office furniture and developed a Pinterest board with new ideas, and while I would really love a picturesque office one day (with wall-to-wall bookshelves and a rolling ladder, of course), I think part of my planning around this room was to distract me from the reality that the room wasn’t what I actually wanted it to be – a nursery.

A few weeks ago, I got the urge to clear our office room out. We had an adoption we were being considered for that ended up not moving forward for us, but we knew we wanted to take active steps to pursue another adoption opportunity. As much as it hurt to know that this room still wasn’t being filled, I had a day off work and spent the entire afternoon transporting books, files, papers, etc. to a storage room on the other side of our house. Eric came home from work and all that was left was the desk and the bookshelf, which I needed his help moving.

Other than Eric’s clothes in the closet, that room has remained empty.

And as sad as that may sound, it has actually helped me pray with deeper emotion and greater hope. I am not trying to distract myself from the places of disappointment or confusion that are woven into my life. Every time I walk in there to hang up clean clothes, or I catch Ridley sniffing around the corners, I take a deep breath and pray for the child I hope one day sleeps there.

That empty room is a tangible reminder of the ways we are trusting God for something greater than we can obtain on our own.

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Disappointment is common to us all, unfortunately. I don’t think anyone escapes the discouragement of not having something go the way they planned, or the way they expected, or the way they hoped.

But I also think there’s a sense of rest and of peace in identifying those places of disappointment, choosing to not try to cover them up or brush past them. As I recognize them, I can bring them to God in prayer and wrestle with him and with the longings of my heart. In that wrestling process, I believe my need for him becomes even more real, and my longing shifts from simply wanting “something” to wanting him and wanting to see him work in that “something.”

In the book of Lamentations, there’s this beautiful harmony between the reality of grief and a confidence in God’s love. Jeremiah is distraught by the consequences his people are facing as a result of turning away from God. He is grieved by their rejection of God and even their rejection of him and his attempts to direct them toward repentance.

I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: 

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He’s all I’ve got left.
Lamentations 3:19-24 MSG

Jeremiah doesn’t deny the place of pain. He doesn’t say that the pain doesn’t matter since God is faithful. But he also doesn’t let his despair be the only thing he focuses on. He holds the two together–he will never forget the trouble, but he will also remember God’s loyal love.

Even when God redeems this season, however he chooses to move our story–the pain won’t disappear.

It’s not supposed to.

In fact, it bolsters my heart to hold these both together–the pain of life and the sadness, alongside the goodness of God. Choosing to believe his love in light of what has happened makes my conviction of his love that much more powerful.  I have to be convinced of who God is and why he is worth it to still believe in his love when my circumstances have not reflected that I get what I want from God.

So as I walk past the empty room, as I pray for God’s provision in a son or daughter, as I pray for my friends who are also waiting to be parents–whether they are waiting for a pregnancy or an adoption or even still waiting to get married–I am reminded that the disappointment is not bad. But it’s not where I stay.

His character is the reason I hope.

[Other posts related to IAW and Mother’s Day]

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