This Friday, our home with be filled with a slew of pizza boxes, hot-pink icing, crafting supplies, and a dozen creative and chatty first-graders. Our eldest daughter Hannah, whose namesake is found in the Book of Samuel, will celebrate her 7th birthday.
Some of you may find it peculiar that we would name our daughter after a woman in a polygamous marriage, hated by her husband’s other wife Penniah (who bore several children, while Hannah remained barren). In fact, Hannah was so beside herself with grief and deferred hope that she was accused of drunkenness. This is not a story found in the Baby Names book next to Hannah, meaning “grace.”
We named our daughter Hannah because her story reminds us that God cares intimately about our desires and longings. We want our daughter to feel the freedom to meet the God who loves her on the wrestling mat of desire.
The Hannah of the Bible prayed tenaciously before God:
If you’ll take a good, hard look at my pain,
If you’ll quit neglecting me and go into action for me
By giving me a son,
I’ll give him completely, unreservedly to you.”
After many years, Hannah was given the gift of her son, Samuel. Her story brought great comfort to me in my struggle with infertility. As my closest friends were announcing their second and third babies, we spent hours in the waiting room of a Reproductive Medicine office. I could have been accused of drunkenness myself as I wailed while rocking in the empty room that we hoped would become a nursery one day. Just passing by the baby section at Target made me feel like I was walking around like a hemorrhaging woman. One particular day at church, I was sitting next to a woman with a lovely bump and an elderly woman in front of us turned around and said “What’s in the water at this church??? EVERYONE is pregnant.”
Life felt so dark that I couldn’t fathom a rescue from my pain. I needed a story of a fierce, desirous women like Hannah to bring me hope. Stories give meaning to our lives. Stories help us to grieve. Stories help us to connect with other people, leaving us less lonely in this world.
As mothers, how will we develop a love of stories in our children? How will we create in them a curiosity and a love for their own stories, the stories of people who are different from them and ultimately the larger story that they are living in? Richard Kearney says, “Telling stories is as basic to human beings as eating. More so, in fact, while food makes us live, stories are what make our lives worth living.”
We learn through stories because they engage our right brain (unlike learning facts). Stories help children develop their imaginations and cope with feelings. Research shows that children who have fiction read to them regularly find it easier to understand other people—they show more empathy.
Today, Hannah loves hearing the story of the day the infertility clinic called to tell us that I was pregnant. Her daddy and I listened to the message five times to make sure we heard it accurately, then did a happy dance in a quiet office building. We screamed at the top of our lungs, and people opened the doors to ask us if we had won the Powerball. I didn’t call a soul. Instead, I drove directly to Target to pee on a stick. I needed to see what two lines looked like after seeing hundreds of negative tests.
Throughout the Old Testament, God calls the Israelites to remember. Psalm 105:5 says, “Remember the wonders He has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced.” As we teach our children about the great stories of God, we must also share how these stories connect to the fabric of our own stories. Sometimes I just imagine the Israelites sitting around a campfire telling their children stories of God’s faithfulness….“One day we were thirsty and famished, and God provided water out of rocks and dropped manna from the sky.”
Sharing this story with Hannah is a way for my heart to remember the goodness of God, and as I invite others into the pain and anguish that we experienced during our infertility struggle, I am also inviting them to drink deeply of God’s gift of Hannah.
Featured image by Hill Smiley Photography
Rachel Blackston loves a good story, deep connection with others, a savory piece of dark chocolate and a steamy mug of high octane coffee. She resides in Orlando with her lanky, marathon running husband and her three precious daughters, priceless gifts after several years of infertility. Rachel and her husband Michael cofounded Redeemer Counseling. As a therapist and coach for 15 years, Rachel considers it an honor to walk with women in their stories of harm, beauty, and redemption. She specializes in working with women with a history of trauma and abuse as well as those struggling with infertility and sexual betrayal. She writes regularly for the blog Red Tent Living and enjoys speaking in the community on topics such as the Knowing your Story, Calling, the Enneagram, Sexuality, and Attachment. To contact Rachel, check out www.rachelblackston.com or blackstonrachel on Instagram.
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