Alice Swain’s tattoo of the word ‘Faith’ is a great conversation-starter, as Rhiannon Goulding experienced when they met at the Riverbank Women’s Conference back in June. When Alice shared her story, Rhiannon knew it would have a big impact on our Activate readers, as it has with many others. So, here’s Alice Swain’s wonderful story of her adoption journey.
My favourite psalm, Psalm 34, begins by declaring,
Lord! I’m bursting with joy over what you’ve done for me! My lips are full of perpetual praise. I’m boasting of you and all your works, so let all who are discouraged take heart.
That is certainly my testimony, as I have seen God work through desperate situations and do the most amazing things. One of which was as I struggled to become a mum.
As soon as I married my husband, we began trying to expand our family, and after 18 months of trying without success, and some hospital tests it was declared that we had unexplained infertility. We were faced with a choice, to spend our savings to explore the issues and seek treatment or simply wait on God. We felt a real peace about waiting on God. So we waited and waited and waited!
Anyone who has ever experienced that kind of wait knows that sometimes it can be really discouraging. Month upon month was filled with grief and disappointment, and while I hung on to the promises of God found in scriptures it still at times felt impossibly hard! God taught me so much about his love and character at this time, but the pain of my prayer remaining unanswered allowed bitterness and jealousy to take root in my heart. I found it difficult to be around pregnant friends and young families and found myself often questioning “Why them and not me?”
After 4 years of waiting, my husband and I went on pilgrimage to Israel and I arrived there, broken, burned out and discouraged. However while I was there God supernaturally healed my heart in the most beautiful way. As I sailed on the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus had calmed the storm, I felt God stilling the storm in my life until I could honestly sing, ‘It is well with my soul.’ I came back from Israel changed and wanted to remember what God has done in my life, so I got the word ‘faith’ tattooed on my arm to remind me to have faith, even when things get hard.
The following year, God very clearly called me to look into the process of adoption. As my husband and I prayed about it and sought God in it, we realised that adoption is an important call to God’s people and found time and time again throughout scripture. We knew this was where God was leading us and we began the adoption process. Every step along the way we saw God do little, and sometimes even big miracles and he led very gently and clearly. There were challenges along the way as we considered the trauma that many children have faced in their young lives and how this can impact them, and we surrendered some of the dreams and expectations I had, such as carrying my own child through pregnancy and naming them.
The adoption process is full of waiting and one day, once again, I got fed up with waiting! Instead of slipping once again into jealousy and bitterness, I turned to worship and on a two-hour long car journey I played a worship song on repeat that declared, ‘All your promises are yes and Amen’ and called forth a miracle. As I finished the journey, my phone rang and my social worker declared, “I have found your daughter!” As we heard about her, we fell in love, and then she told us her name…Faith!
That night, as we processed all the information about our soon-to-be daughter, we discovered that I had got my ‘faith’ tattoo at the time that she would have been conceived! God marked me out as her mother before he knit her together! Everytime I feel discouraged, particularly in a time of waiting, I look at my arm and remember the words of Psalm 34:6:
When I had nothing, desperate and defeated, I cried out to the Lord and he heard me, bringing his miracle deliverance when I needed it most.
Read more from Alice Swain on her personal blog, An adventure in ministry, where she shares all things to do with faith, ministry and infertility. Alice’s book, Flourishing in the Wilderness, is available in paperback or on Kindle.