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A Journey to Parenthood

Written by: Shannon Wexelberg  |  Found in: Parenting, Adoption & Infertility  |  2 Comments »

Someday maybe I’ll write a book – one that shares the entire story of God’s faithfulness, patience & graciousness along our path to parenthood. But for now, a page or two on my website will have to suffice. There are parts and pieces of my heart recorded in various journal entries, scattered here and there, but most especially they are recorded in my songs. As I remember the melodies and lyrics of so many of the songs God has given over the years, I see a record of my journey with Him thus far.

Mark and I got married in the Spring of 1993 and, like many couples, decided two years into our marriage that it was time to start having a family. One never thinks or imagines that it won’t just happen the good old-fashioned way. After all, you’re young, healthy and the world is at your feet! Well, a year passed and nothing. Another year passed and nothing. We decided it was time to visit a specialist and for several years tried various treatments and endured the rigors of infertility testing. Not fun! To say it was an emotional rollercoaster is pretty accurate, but even that description pales! Those of you who have walked this path, or are currently walking it, know exactly what I’m talking about. The anniversaries, the birthdays, the holidays, Mother’s Day….it’s all painful. You keep telling yourself…”I’ll be fine this year…” but you find yourself running to the bathroom in tears, or avoiding special holidays altogether, just to survive. The ache is great, and it seems it will never be satisfied.

About five years into “trying,” I got pregnant. We were elated and in awe! It was an amazing miracle of God and we were astounded! About 10 weeks into my pregnancy my Dr. cleared me to take a ministry trip to Arkansas that had been previously scheduled. Thankfully, Mark was scheduled to go with me, which he often isn’t. I ministered at a Women’s Conference that morning and did a worship concert the next evening at the church. That evening, after worship, I began to miscarry. I won’t go into the details, but I remember where I was and how I felt even as I sit here this moment. We immediately called the Dr. upon arriving at our hotel after service. He said to “lay down and wait it out til morning” that sometimes this is normal and it may not be a miscarriage. So…of course, I did not sleep the entire night, the sobbing and praying got the better of me. In the morning, one of the gals from the church recommended a Dr. in the area and so the dear worship pastor of the church escorted Mark and me to the hospital nearby. After a serious of tests and ultrasounds, they confirmed I had lost the baby. I was a wreck.

For the first time in this five-year journey of infertility, I asked God “why is this happening to me?” And I didn’t ask it in a submissive, sweet way. I was angry, confused and heartsick. Because of some complications, I had to stay in Arkansas for a week following the miscarriage. During that week, I don’t remember much else except for crying, reading, sitting outside in the sun, and crying some more. Oh, and there was one trip to Wal-Mart in there. Honestly, I could not stop the tears. I loved Him so, but why was this happening? How could He withhold this one thing I desired so much? I was honest, broken and in pain. And what was the point of this whole miscarriage thing? I would’ve been happier never having gotten pregnant.

A couple weeks passed and I was home. I remember it vividly. I was standing in my kitchen, still able to cry at a moment’s notice. And I was still feeling somewhat abandoned by the Lord. Now, my head knew this was not so. My faith was strong. I knew the Word of God. But all my emotions said…”You are being disregarded by Him.” David felt that was so often in the Psalms…I was not alone. But in that moment, the Holy Spirit awakened my heart to the garbage I was letting stink up my spirit – the anger, the bitterness, the spoiled-brat attitude. In that moment, I got a picture of the cross in my mind’s eye and I sensed the words, “If the cross was all I ever did for you, isn’t that enough?” Immediately, without a second thought, I bowed my knees to the Lord in that kitchen and asked His forgiveness for all the pride and self-entitlement I had been carrying. I was a wreck again, but for all the right reasons. I was undone.

It was from that moment on that God turned on the light of my journey, or at least I became able to see that light. Oh, there were songs written before that time and plenty of moments of assurance and revelation in His Word prior to that. But something happened once I really, truly humbled my heart and acknowledged the cross in the midst of my pain. He began to speak to me in a new way. It was during that time that I wrote my entire “Story of My Life” CD. Songs like “In the Waiting” were born. “Story of My Life” was written from a place of reassurance, knowing that He is the Author and Finisher of my faith and that He is orchestrating my steps. I need not worry what He has NOT given, but fix my eyes on all that He is. His grace is sufficient.

Several more years went by. We did some more testing and some homeopathic treatments. We tried doing cleanses, acupuncture, every kind of “trick” in the book. Still weary, I knew I was not alone. Oh, how the Father met me and ministered to my spirit, even more so in my pain than in my joy. He was and is so close and had become my Joy. He never abandoned the work of His hands in my life.

In 2005 the journey still continued. While we were done with all the treatments and tests and weren’t considering any more, we were still hoping and trying for that “miracle.” In May of that year we attended “A Night to Honor Israel” at Faith Bible Chapel in Arvada, CO, where I was on staff in the worship department at the time. Because my hubby, Mark, is such a big Dennis Prager fan, a friend of ours lined us up to be his host for the evening, as he was our guest speaker. Mark was elated and graciously walked him back forth from the venue to his book signing table, etc. The night was electric! Following the evening, I was hanging out with Mark at the table, as Dennis finished up chatting with the folks who were getting their books signed. Finally the night came to a close and we walked Dennis to his rental car. In the midst of the walk, the usual small talk took place. Dennis said, “So, how long have you guys been married?” We answered. Then he asked the usual follow-up question, which I had come to dread, “So, do you guys have kids?” I said “No, but we really want them and have been trying for a long time.” (I always felt the need to explain, lest someone think I was some hard-hearted person who did not like children) He stopped dead in his tracks in that hallway and turned to me and said, “Shannon, don’t you underestimate what happened in that room tonight. What you did (I ministered in worship & in song in English and in Hebrew with the worship team) tonight impacts generations, just like having a child, if not even more so.  Do not think that having a child is the “end all” – it is not. You are making an impact with your song and with your life in ways that many never will.”

I stood there dumb-founded and nodded graciously and said, “Yes, you’re right. Thank you, Dennis.” I had heard words kind of like that before, but they were like arrows to my heart that night.

The next morning I awakened to a feeling of light-heartedness. What was this emotion or lack thereof? It was freedom. God so used those words to penetrate my heart that I felt set free that morning. I can’t explain it and I give Dennis credit only for his obedience. I give the Lord the credit for changing my heart supernaturally, as only He is able to do. Just like the song says, “I once was lost, but now I’m found.” Well, “I once was bound, but now I’m free” was exactly how I felt that morning. It was not to my credit, but only by His amazing grace. I did not feel compelled to have children. My joy did not depend on that! I suddenly felt like there was a WHOLE LOT of life to be lived and the light bulb turned on once more.

That week, Mark and I prayed pretty casually, “God, we are OK if you don’t want us to have kids. Really, truly OK. And we are also content if you should give us a child through adoption. We are here submitting to Your will and trust Your hand in our lives.” The end. Amen. That was about it.

Later that week, I thought I might as well just explore adoption online a bit. I paged through the adoption process and logistics on Bethany Christian Service’s website and felt overwhelmed and, quite frankly, sick to my stomach. After almost 10 years of infertility, I had to now go through WHAT? How long did I have to wait? How much did I have to pay? It was too much for my heart and my mind to process at the moment and I closed my laptop and breathed this prayer, “God, I can’t handle this. You know I have very little emotional or mental strength to deal with this much more. If you want us to have a child, I ask You to bring that child to us supernaturally.” I walked away from my computer and didn’t give it another thought.

A week or so later, I was at a wedding shower for a friend, and I decided to sit down by a dear sister in the Lord whom I knew had recently adopted from Russia. I decided to ask her about her story. She shared the amazing details of the story and my heart was moved! Then, during the shower, the sister of the bride came up to me and said, “I know you don’t know me very well, but I know you and I feel like I’m supposed to just pray for you – pray for God to complete your family however He sees fit.” So, we went out back on the porch and she prayed for me. Following the shower that day, I walked out to the car with my missionary friend who had adopted from Russia and she finished the story. She and her mother-in-law prayed for me that day as well, without my asking.  They prayed the same thing – “God, bring Mark and Shannon the child You have for them, if it be your will for them to be parents.”

Little did I know what the next couple weeks would hold in store. In Michigan, a birthmother who already had one little girl, had an eight month old baby boy named Christian, whom she simply felt she could not care for any longer. She had gone through a program for unwed mothers, that my husband’s parents  founded, while pregnant with her first baby. And now she had a second and was overwhelmed (& pregnant with a third). One day, she dropped Christian off at a friend’s house (the same friend who, at the time, was raising her daughter as well) and said, “I’ll be back later.” Well, she did not come, as she said she would. After her friend got a hold of her, Christian’s birthmother told her friend, “I just can’t be a mother to him. But I don’t want you to call Social Services…” She hung up the phone, picked it up once more and called Mark’s parents saying, “I don’t want Christian to go to Social Services, but I can’t be a mother to him. Would someone in your family adopt him?”

All this was happening nearly simultaneously or just after these prayers had been lifted on our family’s behalf by friends and just a month after Dennis Prager had spoken those words to me that night.

Mark’s sister, Sue, went to pick Christian up, and after receiving confirmation from the Lord that she was supposed to call us (after talking to Christian’s birthmother as well), she called us with the “news” that we could adopt this baby boy! It was June of 2005.

I’ll never forget where I was when Mark told me. It was one of the rare occasions that I was down on the treadmill working out.  The Lord knows I need more discipline! He came downstairs and said, “You need to sit down.” Of course, I thought someone had died or had some terrible disease. Then he told me. I was blown away! And we both immediately knew it was the very thing God wanted us to do! There was no doubt. God had prepared our hearts in a supernatural way up to that point, and now His gracious gift had come to us.

Two days later we were on a plane to Michigan! While we were gone, my dear friend Rhoda, with the help of other sweet Moms from Faith Bible Chapel, gathered all the baby paraphernalia that we would need! After all, Christian was almost 9 months old and he was on the move!

Meeting him for the first time was surreal. How can you explain it? I can’t. But I knew my heart had been expanded and this child had been grafted into it. We brought him home two days later and what was once a sad little face that lacked hope became the most joyful, sweet precious face you ever did see! He slept through the night from the first night he came home and ate like a champ!

The transition from “wanna-be” parents to actual parents was a bit of a shocking one. Even though we wanted kids for ten years, I don’t think we really realized what it would be like. And instead of the usual nine month process, we had four days of preparation time! So, needless to say, I felt overwhelmed initially! I didn’t know how to mix formula. It had been a long time since my babysitting days! There was so much to learn. I felt so responsible! WOW!

Well, obviously we adapted and life has never been the same. Our sweet son is growing into a wonderful young boy. It’s hard to believe that several years have passed now. It’s hard to imagine life without him. And what’s amazing – truly amazing – is how God healed my heart not BECAUSE of Christian but in preparation for Christian. I learned that a child can never fill an empty spot in your heart. Oh, yes, most definitely, the joy of parenthood (& the challenges!) have satisfied some of that longing for what had not yet been. But God Himself filled that hole before Christian ever came along. I think that’s the same in any situation – whether it be longing for a spouse, a child, a great career, a home. Anything. That thing or person itself can never fill that hole. Only God can.  And I’m so grateful that He did. I’m grateful that before the miracle of Christian came to us that the miracle of the Satisfaction and Grace of Christ overwhelmed me. Thank You, Lord!

So, that’s our parenthood story in a nutshell. There is so much more I could share. Lessons learned. Joys and sorrows. But the bottom line is that I feel incredibly grateful. Grateful not only for my dear sweet son, but grateful to the Giver of every good and perfect gift. Grateful for His timing. Grateful that He is intimately involved in each and every one of our stories and He will NEVER, not ever, abandon the work of His hands. Grateful that He is in the waiting and that time that seems wasted is not wasted in His hands. He redeems all things and works all things together for the good of them that love Him and are called according to His purposes.

So, precious heart, if you are longing today for something that has not come to you yet, I encourage you to drink deeply of Him. Really. It’s not a cliché. It’s not just a pretty lyric to a song. It is a fact of life.  The Giver of Life. He is the only One who can ever satisfy the longing in your heart. Drink deeply & drink often. Better yet, jump in and swim, for He is the water of life that shall never run dry.

pics Shannon