|"God is not waiting to do something in our life. He’s always doing something. It’s being aware of what He’s doing right now. He’s not doing everything at once, but He’s always doing something."
Anna Carpenter: Trusting God Through Infertility
By Jennifer E. Jones
As I talk to Anna Carpenter on the phone, I can hear her taking care of her household. She’s washing dishes and receiving mail packages. A baby is cooing in the background, and sometimes Anna pauses to whisper something sweet to her. She sounds happy in this moment, but it took a long time to get here.
It all began eight years ago, when she met John Carpenter at her pastor’s home.
“We met at a Friday night Bible study,” Anna tells CBN.com. “We didn’t really connect until 2004 when the veil lifted, and it was like, ‘Oh, it’s you!’”
They fell in love, but their military careers soon put them on opposite sides of the world. She says, “I was getting stationed in Honduras with the Air Force. So we were long distance for our entire relationship until we got married in 2005. God was setting us up for the life we had, which was a lot of being apart. We had to learn how to be together apart.”
Like many young couples, John and Anna dreamed of a family. They figured they would enjoy married life for a while, then start trying to conceive a child. It was a simple plan that many newlyweds envision.
“After a year, nothing was happening,” she confesses. “We did research, talked to people, tried more strategically for another six months. Then we started checking in with the doctors. We had no idea starting out that it would be this kind of a journey.”
What they assumed would be natural turned into something more, and her prayer life began to change. She says, “I think a good portion of the first year a lot of our prayer life was centered around: ‘God, give us a baby.’ Month after month of disappointment, you start to question, ‘What are You doing? What’s Your plan? Are we doing something wrong? Is there something in our life that You want to get out of us before this happens?’
“For us, it helped to focus back on God and what He was doing in our lives, rather than, ‘Lord, I lack this. Please give this to me.’ We turned the prayer focus to what God is doing in us.”
They continued to pray about what God was doing while still praying for a baby. They stayed in a spirit of preparation while trying to enjoy what they had. Some days it wasn’t easy, but Anna learned quickly how to keep things in perspective.
“I have not been shy about being around other moms. I don’t see what other people getting pregnant has to do with me," she says. "I like to celebrate with people in that process.”
She adds, “People will encourage those selfish prayers. ’I pray for you to have a baby. We are believing with you that God will do this.’ We’re kinda brought up that way. We are taught to ask for specific things and that we can see God do those things because we are praying in faith. It happens for a lot of people. I can’t say it doesn’t work. I wish I could say to the John and Anna of three years ago, ‘Don’t pray for a baby; pray for God’s will to be done in your lives. Pray for obedience. Operate in patience.’ How many times while we were praying for a baby did God say, “Yes, I heard that, but here’s what I have for you.’”
What God was doing was stirring up another dream inside of them. Before they married, John and Anna had talked about adoption. To them, in addition to their own children, it was always a goal. She says that the longer they waited for a baby, the reality of adoption became more clear.
They began to ask around and found other couples at their church who had successfully adopted. It was something that was within their grasp. Then, one day, Anna was home watching Extreme Home Makeover, and something clicked.
“The guy they were doing the show for was born in Egypt and he was disabled. He was thrown away as a baby. Somebody found him and raised him. Now he’s in the States, and he takes care of disabled kids,” Anna says. “It woke something up in me. We can do that. We can take care of kids that other people are throwing away.”
They called the county foster care system and began the process. She adds, “We prayed about it, but we didn’t have to think about it. This is what God’s been preparing us for in our hearts.
“Our initial thought going in was being a shelter for kids while we’re waiting for children of our own. Through the class, we learned that this fostering is geared towards the whole family. You’re part of the restoration of the parents. You develop a relationship with them, and you help mentor them back into being healthy parents as much as they allow it. It was a huge revelation to us. How much more Kingdom is that. Our perspective completely changed.”
The Carpenter home was approved for both adoption and foster care. Months later, they got the call, and in less than 24 hours, they had a child who Anna referred to on her blog as "Baby F". With such little notice, those moms she made friends with at church gave her and John all the baby supplies that they needed.
Anna says that getting to know the birth mother opened her eyes to a whole world that was different than her own – a world of complications that would lead a woman to not be able to raise her own child. Anna watched the young woman mature and be given a second chance. In the process, Anna learned selflessness and finding joy in even the most difficult moments.
Sometime after our phone call, that same baby that was cooing in the background was placed back with her mother. Anna wrote on her blog:
God's hand has been with us through every step of this process. I know He will be with me this week. On that day when I send this baby home where she belongs, and come back to a house smelling of formula and baby wipes, with mounds of pink clothes and burp cloths to pack up, He will be there. On those nights when I wake up every 3 hours listening for a cry that's probably going to be coming from me, He will be there.
And He was.
Today, Anna and John are still fostering, taking in babies coming from various situations. They have learned much about themselves and about the God they serve. When I ask Anna what she would say about her journey, she says, “Going into marriage you’re very idealistic. You don’t dream that you’ll have fertility issues, but that’s a reality. As hard as it is to picture that I might never have a baby that looks like John, God is still God and He still loves us. He hasn’t forgotten us because the picture looks different than we thought it would. We hope that will change, but it will still be okay. I can stand at the end of my day and praise God for what He’s done in our lives. I won’t feel like He owes me anything.”
Update: Shortly after publishing this article, Jon and Anna Carpenter learned the joyous news that they were pregnant with their first child. To contact Anna and learn more about her, read her blog Anna's Joy.
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