For most of my life, Mother’s Day was the special day we finally stopped to celebrate the person who brought us into this world. A mothers’ countless sacrifices deserve an ocean of gratitude and way more days of love and thanks than just one. It was a day for flowers and brunch. A day for making your best homemade creation, because what would mom possibly love more than something made by the hands of her child? It was a joyful day.
Until it wasn’t.
I have a vivid memory of standing outside my sister’s house (herself a mom of five) a few years ago and receiving big hugs from her and my mom as we wrapped up another Mother’s Day weekend. Cards and presents and toasts had been given to these hero mammas.
For me? Looks of sympathy. Cautious words of hope: “I’m praying by next Mother’s Day that you will be ...”
And so began a growing sense of emptiness for the role I was NOT playing. A role countless women my age (39) fulfill. At any age, it surfaces an increasingly hollow feeling of being “less than.”
The most unexpected thing? It was not for a lack of trying. Or desiring. Or praying. Or hoping.
That Mother’s Day with my mom and sister when so many were hoping for “next year” for us, was four years ago. There is something searing about a mental time frame. It sticks with you. No matter how many times we preach to ourselves that God’s timing is best...it is rarely comforting when you’re in the trenches of grief and pain.
If this has been your struggle for any length of time, I know you’ve had days like this ... motherhood announcements and gender reveals up and down your social media feed, every friend telling you she’s pregnant, random strangers asking if you have kids, the television playing a constant loop of Pampers commercials, walking outside into a parade of baby strollers, pregnancy ads popping up on your phone, baby bumps chasing you down. Even the safest places can feel like salt on the wound. Like the Bible verses with metaphors about birth pangs, labor, nursing, and motherhood. Come on, Lord. Help your daughter out.
One day when I wanted to hide from the world, I had hardly left my apartment when I got on the elevator and a couple was loading a crib in. I walked down the hall and a neighbor I had never seen before, obviously pregnant, walked into the apartment literally across the hall from mine. Then I flipped on the news and there was an announcement from the local zoo about all the excitement around mama panda getting pregnant again. I remember looking at my husband and yelling … even the pandas are pregnant!!!
But instead of wallowing in self-pity, which is a pretty constant temptation, I wanted this struggle to transform me into someone who is always looking for the person on the fringes. So I can say, “I see you” to that aching soul, just like I’m yearning to hear this Mother’s Day. I want to hear that, while it may feel like the whole world is included in something, Someone sees how it’s chipping away at me to be left out.
I believe that’s what Jesus calls us to do. I believe it’s who Jesus is. Someone who loved everyone on the fringes. He made a specific point over and over to say, “I see you.” And the people saw Him. In a lot of cases, they were searching and chasing Him down. Are we?
I want to tell you about a messenger of hope the Lord sent me and husband. In March, we began to notice some twigs collecting in an odd place on our porch. I had temporarily moved our outdoor seat cushions to a corner of the porch away from the rain. Soon after, we kept seeing two birds. At first I wondered if they were pigeons. I showed a friend their picture and she told me excitedly, ”No! Those are mourning doves!”
I was glad they weren’t gross pigeons, and then I looked up the symbolism and meaning of mourning doves. The first thing I read: “Beyond their sorrowful song is a message of LIFE. HOPE. RENEWAL. And PEACE.”
Yes, please to all of those things. They are particularly needed in the limbo of this season between jobs and fighting to embrace rest and wait on the Lord. In every major aspect of life. It is a gift, and it is excruciating.
As the doves began to nest, my husband did a Google search of His own. He found that mourning doves are both one of the most common birds in North America, and also one of the most celebrated birds in the Bible.
They are a sign of three key things: First, a sign of the Holy Spirit. In Matthew 3:16-17, the Spirit of God descends like a dove when Jesus is baptized. Second, they are a symbol of hope. In Genesis 8:8-12 after the flood wiped out humanity, Noah sent out a dove who returned with the olive leaf that represented hope of life returning to the Earth. Third, they are symbol of peace. We’re familiar with the white dove, but mourning doves are thought to represent the same (the states of Wisconsin and Michigan regard the mourning dove as their state symbol of peace).
We felt so uplifted to have these Holy Spirit birds representing hope, life, and peace nesting right outside our bedroom window.
And then they laid eggs! The first egg came the day we got cleared for an IUI procedure. Two days later when we came home from having the procedure done, a second egg had been laid. For anyone who has gone through an IUI, you know what follows is a two week wait. When I Googled, “How long does it take baby mourning doves to hatch,” guess what it said.
This is too crazy! We though it MUST be happening for us now. Why else would the Lord send Holy Spirit birds to nest, lay eggs, and have babies right outside our bedroom window? One of my friends said, “If this doesn’t mean you are going to get pregnant STAT, the Lord has serious communication issues.” I laughed, and fully agreed.
Two weeks later, the baby doves hatched. Two days later, the doctor called with news.
Another negative pregnancy test.
Another crushing “not yet.”
I think like little kids, we’re always wanting everything now. “Ok now? How about now Lord? Is it now yet?” But He won’t be rushed.
The doves have re-nested, laid another batch of babies and just today, two new dove babies have hatched. And though this still hasn’t meant babies for us, we know the story is still being written.
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:26-27.
Birds don’t worry, they sing.
Anyone who has been waiting in hope while holding heartbreak knows the crushing feeling of tallying up the days gone by. Try as I might to trust the timing of my life, I regularly return to counting the days, months, years of waiting and immediately feel overwhelmed.
But God showed me a different response. Instead of tallying up time, what if we sing praise?
At a gathering in February, the speaker posed a question to the audience: “How will you persevere this year?” I sat with the question and asked the Lord. Soon enough it bubbled up. “You just keep telling of my miraculous deeds.”
“Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” Psalm 105:2-4.
Jaclyn Toscas is a writer and contributor on the content team of Waiting in Hope. She grew up in the Houston suburb of The Woodlands and lives in the Washington DC area with her husband of six years. Through her 5-year journey of infertility, IVF and loss, she has discovered great passion in helping women rediscover God’s goodness through their pain.