Connect with us


The Fruit of Barrenness



During the year in which my husband CJ and I tried unsuccessfully to conceive a child, I thought often about the word “barren.”

According to Webster’s Dictionary, barren means “incapable of producing offspring” and can also be described as “devoid” or “lacking.” It is not death exactly, but it is akin to death. Death describes a life that has ended; barrenness describes a life that, for whatever reason, cannot be.

Barren was one of the vocabulary words I taught my eighth graders when we read a short story called Thank You Ma’am by Langston Hughes. Hughes used the word to describe a city stoop, and in my head, I picture the word barrenness like I picture Hughes’ stoop — dark, shadowy, cracked, and dirty, absent of flowers, light, and beauty.

That’s how barrenness often felt to me too, in the year that CJ and I waited for a child. Each month, I would allow myself to hope, believing that maybe, just maybe, this time would be the time. And month after month, when I saw the tell-tale signs of an empty womb, I found myself bowled over by a deep and profound sadness, aware that I was, in spite of my deep desire to give life, still barren.

Motherhood is always how I have imagined spending the bulk of my adult life. Though I did well in high school and planned to attend college, I assumed I would grow up to be like my own mother, a stay-at-home mom to multiple children. In fact, even my dreams of marriage were primarily dreams of family. I did not imagine leisurely dinners with my husband after work or the freedom to stay out late and travel. I thought of babies, of little lives we would work together to care for and nurture, of partnership in creating and maintaining a family. And I assumed all of this would begin as it did for my mother, with marriage shortly after graduation from college and kids in short order.

This, however, was not what God had in mind. Not only did I not marry until my late twenties, I found myself approaching my thirtieth birthday with no sign of the child I longed for, even after months of careful charting and efforts to conceive.

At church, I watched the women with their small children, envying their full arms and busy, bustling pews. In my own row, it was just CJ and me. No diaper bags, no strollers, no children to fill our arms or our laps. Empty.

At small group, where I was the only woman who didn’t have kids, I tried my best to participate in conversations even when they veered, as conversations of young moms often (and understandably) do, to topics like cloth diapers and bedtime routines. I’d done enough babysitting to hold my own most of the time, but inside, I felt excluded. Alone.

In my times with God, I sobbed, wondering out loud why He would not answer my prayers, certain that He was holding out on me, perhaps punishing me in some way. Even though I believed intellectually that God was good, I simply could not see how He was being good to me. I remembered other times He had “failed” me, and I focused on the many ways my life had not been good.

Sometimes I was angry. Sometimes I felt so sad that I didn’t want to get out of bed. Sometimes I just felt a crushing sense of despair.

One day, I bitterly told CJ how much I hated the word barren, reminding him of all its terrible connotations. He listened and then looked at me with a gentle and compassionate twinkle in his eye. “There is another word, Abby,” he said. “It’s a good word. It’s God.”

Paula Reinhart writes in her book, Better Than My Dreams, about the phrase, “But God…” She describes it as a phrase we must remember when our lives don’t turn out the way we think they should. In those moments, we see disappointment, failure, and the absence of God. But, she says, in every story, there is always a “But God….” God is always at work, even in what feels like His absence, bringing good to His children.

In my barrenness, I would come to discover, He was breathing new life into deep places in my soul, writing a story far different from the one I had planned, but a story that was good all the same. He was changing me.

The shifts in my soul did not happen, as I often wished they would, in one dramatic moment, like the sudden, relieving cool that follows a thunderstorm on a humid, summer day. Instead, they came like the first signs of spring in Northern Virginia where I live, thawing one day followed by icy winds the next, any sense of progress toward warmth and new life passing, for a long time, largely unnoticed.

But somehow, gradually, as the months passed, I began to soften inside, to see small glimpses of His presence in spite of the still unanswered prayers.

God showed up in the friends who walked with me during these months, the friends I called on the bad, desperate days when despair threatened to overwhelm me. They cried with me. They prayed with me. They watched while I balled up tissue after sodden tissue and listened while I processed emotion after endless emotion. They empathized where they could and were honest enough to admit when they couldn’t. They gently spoke truth to my soul.

God showed up in His word, in the stories of the man born blind (John 9) and of Lazarus (John 11); stories that point not only to God’s ability to heal what is broken, but also to His tender and redemptive purposes in physical pain and sickness. He reminded me that, like the blind man and like Lazarus, I am not the author of my own story, but a character in a greater story; a story that is messy and confusing and scary in the middle, but does have an ending where things will eventually resolve for my good and for His glory.

God showed up in my times with Him, speaking to my heart with a directness that I only rarely experience. He showed me clearly that at least part of the reason He was asking me to wait was because He wanted me to write and knew that if I didn’t prioritize that now, before kids, I certainly wouldn’t do so with all the demands of a family on my plate.

God showed up in my husband, who often did not understand the depth of my disappointment and who often bore the brunt of my frustration and despair, but who continued to patiently and faithfully love me.

I wish I could say that God showing up in all these ways gave me perfect joy and peace as I continued to wait on Him, but the reality is that it didn’t. My trust in Him still faltered, and there were many days where I failed to trace His goodness in any of my circumstances. And yet, it gradually became clear to me that my season of physical barrenness was bearing surprising fruit in some previously hardened places in my soul. For the first time, I was able to trust, however haltingly, that God was present in my suffering and that He really and truly remained good even in the midst of my pain. As a result, I was able to loosen my grip on my own story and, often through tears, entrust the next chapter, whatever it might bring, to the ultimate story writer.

In His amazing kindness and breathtaking generosity, He chose for that chapter to be a pregnancy, one that occurred after almost exactly a year of trying, just days before my thirtieth birthday. When our daughter was born this spring, CJ and I named her Elliana, which means “God has answered.” I wanted her name to remind me that God answered our prayers for a baby, but I also wanted to remember that He answered my desperate cries for help and changed me, making even my time of barrenness fruitful.

Abigail Waldron lives in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., with her husband C.J. and their children. She enjoys teaching college writing courses and pursuing her own writing projects, including her blog, Redeeming Themes.

Click to comment


When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.



One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

Continue Reading


Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.



“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

Continue Reading


He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.



Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

Continue Reading

Become An Insider!

Enter your email address below to stay in the loop on the latest from Ungrind.

Welcome to Ungrind!

Hi, I'm Ashleigh Slater, founder and editor of Ungrind. Here at Ungrind, it’s our goal to churn out biblically-based encouragement for women. We strive to be honest and transparent about our struggles in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance.

As you read, we hope you consider us friends, the kind you feel comfortable sitting across the table with at the local coffee shop. You can read more about me HERE and our team of writers HERE.

Latest Articles

What Women Are Saying

"I am very impressed with the content of Ungrind. It is a place young women can go for encouragement, inspiration, and practical ways to navigate a life of faith. In a world that is telling women to find fulfillment through a million 'things,' Ungrind reminds us that we fill our cups through the Word of God and the commonality we share as women who pursue Him."

--Jennifer Strickland, author of Girl Perfect: An Imperfect Girl's Journey to True Perfection




We are a member of the Amazon affiliate program and regularly use affiliate links. If you purchase an item from an Amazon link we provide, we will receive a small referral commission. This doesn’t cost you anything additional. We only share books, music, and products that our writers personally have used and highly recommend.


Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!

The Fruit of Barrenness

by Abigail Waldron time to read: 5 min