Author: Brian Donahue

My wife and I were ten years into our marriage before we started thinking about having kids. We started our marriage off on the same page: no kids. We were content to chase our careers and dreams without the responsibility of caring for and keeping alive other human beings. On this, we were completely united. We loved the idea of being the cool aunt and uncle who swept in from out of state occasionally to spoil our nieces and nephews, annoy their parents, and then sweep right out again.

This sounded wonderful to us! We loved our freedom to spontaneously go explore the mountains of Utah on a whim, to enjoy a night eating out at another one of our favorite restaurants, or to go shopping without a loudmouth kid in the cart who made enough noise to let the entire world know they existed.

Then our friends started having kids and we saw the joy they were experiencing. It dawned on us that we were making a decision that we could grow to regret in our old age. Over the next year, God began to slowly change our hearts, and a new era was approaching.

After many prayers and discussions, we decided to let go and let God move in our lives according to His good and perfect will. Then the waiting started. I call this period “The Great Chasm of Nothingness.” This was when time itself seemed to stand still as we tried to get pregnant, then waited, and then tried again, and then…you get the picture.

It was two years of this merry-go-round. Only we were not happy and certainly not very merry. There was a lot of waiting and an awful lot of disappointment and frustration.

It came to a head on a particular vacation when another couple we were vacationing with, a sweet and already blessed with kids couple, announced they were pregnant again. Instead of being happy for them and overjoyed at their blessing, we found ourselves retreating to our room to cry and ask the Lord, “Why not us?”

He had changed our hearts and performed a miracle in our lives. He had brought us from the brink of divorce to a growing desire to build a family together. God’s goodness had overwhelmed us just a couple of years before, but now we were in the desert. You know, the same kind of desert the Israelites were wandering in for years. In the desert, we can tend to forget the goodness and faithfulness of God who brought us out of captivity and pointed us toward a greater life of promise.

During this time, our desire to have kids led to a desire for them to be raised closer to our families and so I started seeking a ministry position as close to Ohio as possible. I finally received an invitation to join the staff of a local church within 30 minutes of all our family, save for a few exceptions. We were excited!

As I was introduced as the new youth pastor, some of the teens reached out to me via social media. We received one such message from a young lady that included a type of prophetic message in it. She said something like, “I know you don’t know me at all, but I believe God gave me a vision that your wife will become pregnant and that it will be a girl that you will call, Payton!” Keep in mind, we hadn’t shared our desire to have kids with anyone…not a single soul! We, of course, wrote this young woman off quickly as being a little weird and didn’t think twice about it.

Then we met her in person, and she was constantly telling us she was praying for Payton. Over the next year, as we struggled with a growing ache in our hearts, every time we were about to throw our hands up in surrender, this young lady would say, “I had the vision again! I just know you guys are going to get pregnant and have Payton!”

This happened at least five times. Every time we were at the end of ourselves she would appear like a weird angel and prophetically declare this over our lives.

Finally, my wife developed a pattern over a few days of being repulsed by the thought, sight, or smell of coffee. She realized that her mother had described to her a similar repulsion when she was pregnant with her kids! She took the test right then and there! She was indeed pregnant!

Our worship in that moment had never been so pure, so joyful, and so authentic. It was like finally stepping into the promised land after a long and hard journey. God’s goodness and faithfulness were once again before us, in clear sight, obvious. It had always been there, and we knew it. Sometimes it’s hard to see clearly through tears and the weight of your heartache.

When it came time to take the first pictures of our baby and to find out whether it was a boy or a girl, we were excited and anticipating confirmation of God’s promise. The nurse asked us if we wanted to know if it was a boy or a girl. We both said emphatically that we believed it would be a girl…and it was!

I’ll never forget the gasp of excitement and worship my wife made when the nurse confirmed what we already knew. The nurse asked if we had picked out a name and if we wanted to label the image with it. We looked at each other and said together, “Payton!”

When Payton was born, without any pain meds and all-natural, because my wife is strong and determined, we had to choose a middle name. We came upon the name “Joy” because the joy of the Lord had been restored to us and we believed that our little girl would spread the joy of the Lord to everyone she would meet in her life. We believed then and still believe that this is a special gift she has been graced with.

So far, she has lived up to this unique prophetic declaration over her own life.

Payton Joy is a continual reminder, as is her brother, Brody Tiberius (whose name may be the subject of another post in the future!), of the goodness and faithfulness of God in our lives. Even in those desert seasons, we can be sure that He never leaves us or forsakes us. He is always good and always faithful.

We still don’t understand why the Lord needed us to wait so long before allowing us to receive the blessing He had promised us. What we do know is that a smart man who wrote much of the New Testament in the Bible, Paul, said in his letter to the Philippians that peace transcends understanding. In other words, we can experience peace without knowing all the answers or understanding all the reasons why we are experiencing suffering, pain, or disappointment.

I recently heard another pastor say, “Understanding is the enemy of peace.” This is so true because we often insist on gaining understanding as the means to peace. God has never promised anyone, as far as I can tell from reading His story (the Bible) that we gain peace through understanding. There is always a step of faith and a season lived out in that faith.

Sometimes faith and trust in the Lord require us to take risks. Peace doesn’t come from knowing the result. It comes by trusting the Giver of the promise and by remembering where He has already been faithful down through the years. It comes by keeping our eyes on Him and trusting that the promised land in our own lives exists even if we can’t see it yet.