Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as [children] by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:3-6–NKJV).

I tied the strings of Sarah’s bib, then kissed her gently before laying her down in her crib. I would let her sleep until her breakfast was ready.

“Such a good girl,” I’d think as I retrieved her bottle from the diaper bag hanging on my bedroom door.

Her breakfast ready, I’d carefully pick her up–paying close attention to her head, holding it securely in the crook of my arm. “There, there. Are you ready for your bottle?”

Sitting in a rocking chair, I’d feed her–crooning to her softly. Her eyes would close as she rested secure. Holding the bottle upright, its contents disappeared almost immediately. “All gone! Was that good?”

Repositioning her, I’d lay Sarah over my shoulder so I could gently rub her back. “What a hungry girl,”–then a pretend burp and, “Wow! You must feel better.”

Time for a diaper and clothing change, I’d fasten the belt around her waist, securing her upon the changing table. Swiftly, I’d change her out of pajamas, then change her diaper. Finally, I’d dress her in her day’s outfit–a frilly frock with matching pantaloons. 

Before long, I’d hear my momma call, “Maureen, it’s time to clean up your toys!”

And so, before putting her away and closing the door to my bedroom to go to school or run errands or help Mom with other household chores, I’d bend low and whisper softly, “I love you, Sarah! You’re such a beautiful girl!” 

And she was.



Some may have judged (rightfully so)–saying I was a little odd for having dolls and some stuffed animals adorning my–our–bed after I’d gotten married at nineteen. And today, all these years later, I’d have to agree.

My beloved Sarah is the doll with no hair on the far right.

But at the time, I was just a little girl trying to figure out life in an adult world. One by one, the dolls and stuffed animals were put away–replaced by decorative pillows or, often times, one of our living cats who loved to nap on our bed.

In truth, the presence of these childish toys and their eventual removal were a reflection of what was going on in my heart, as I, over time, matured beyond the faith of my childhood to that of an adult–moving beyond the simple sustenance of “milk” by tasting, more and more, the “meat” of God’s Word (see Hebrews 5:12, I Cor. 3:2, and I Peter 2:2).

Perhaps the replacement of these childish toys with more mature decor symbolized, too, a relinquishing of my hopes and dreams (I Cor. 13:11)–where I came, over years, to a place of deeper trust in God and His plans for my life, a letting go of my desires that the void might, instead, be filled with more of Him.

I remember specifically a season of my life when I learned better to pray with hands up and open rather than the “Gimme, gimme, God!” prayers said with clenched fists–often seethed between clenched teeth–held tightly to my chest.

It didn’t happen all at once; rather, the cry of my heart changed slowly–becoming first, I don’t want to, but I’m willing for You to make my unyielded heart willing, that I might release my dreams, to eventually, I fully trust You, God, with all my hopes, dreams, and desires–wanting only that which You want for me.

Perhaps, with each change in my prayers, a doll came off our bed–to be safely tucked in a box and put away, though not given away. After all, one day a child or grandchild might like to play with them, I’d justify.

Sometimes foreshadowing and irony are best seen in hindsight. The dolls’ removal was, in truth, almost like the death of my fleshly dreams–though I’d likely have never seen my dreams realized in God’s most perfect and profound way had I not relinquished them to be replaced, instead, with Him.

This is where they sit today–Sarah still there, near the middle.

It was only by coming to rest–yes, delight!–in His presence that I truly received the desires of my heart. As He molded and shaped it, He filled the void that barrenness brought–an empty space that I’d once imagined only a child could fill. Even though, year after year, my womb remained empty, the overflow of my heart filled even that place too–simply and profoundly by God’s grace.

And I emerged from the broken place, blessed beyond measure. Yes–

Blessed in barrenness.

Over time, God brought us the gift of children. In His most perfect way, Dorian Samuel arrived–the Gracious Gift of God for Whom We Prayed. His arrival brought our waiting to an end, making us parents.

Then, only months later, precious Devon Mara-Leigh, who–though she never came home with us–will always be my first daughter and who’s now with Jesus, awaiting our reunion in Heaven.

Next came Jacob Riley who’s taught us so much about trusting God–first, when we lost him briefly right after his birth, when God said, “Like Abraham, lay down your ‘Isaac’ and trust in Me,” and throughout his twenty years as we’ve parented a fun and funny, adventurous child.

In 2007, there was Kristie–whose adoption was almost complete but whom we lost on a sunny summer day. Her presence in our home for a year, as well as her subsequent loss, taught us much of forgiveness–making us face places of bitterness and brokenness in our own lives that God, in His mercy, desired to heal.

And then, in 2012–when we least expected it–along came Allie Elizabeth. We met her on a Wednesday, and she arrived the following Saturday–for a “visit”–carrying a suitcase and never left! And our world has never been the same!

November is Adoption Awareness Month, and tomorrow–the first Sunday of Advent–we expectantly await the arrival of Jesus on Christmas Day.

But we are also awaiting His second coming–when He will come to make all things new, to put all things to right.

He even calls us to put some things away–to clean up our messes, to lay things aside that His perfect plans can take precedent.

Our Daddy bends low and, calling us each by name, whispers–I love you! You’re such a beautiful child.

And we are.

Dear Jesus, help us to know what dreams we must relinquish that You can take full precedence in our hearts. As Your adopted children, we wait for You–so come, Lord Jesus! Come!

Delight yourself also in the LORD,

And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4–NKJV