Girls’ Night Out Story #2: Nancy Gruneisen


I never thought I would have trouble birthing children, but does any woman? My sister, Sally and I each got married about eight weeks apart. After two years of marriage (isn’t that the magic number?) we both began trying to conceive. She got pregnant first. I remember feeling a twinge of jealously but realized it might be great for her to “break” my parents into the grandparent scene rather than me. No big deal.

Another year passed. My OBGYN ran a few tests, but didn’t find anything. Sally got pregnant again (without meaning to) and I all I could think of was how God had abandoned me.

Everyone around me was getting pregnant except me.

It was so hard to be with my friends who were pregnant or listen to their discussions of whether or not they wanted to have another baby. I kept telling God that I want to be content with where He had me but it didn’t feel like I meant it. I even asked Him to take away my desire for children, but He never did.  People tried to say encouraging things:  “Just relax”, “I’m sure you’ll get pregnant”.  There was a time Joe and I couldn’t even pray about it and we let our friends pray for us.

We did conceive once. I remember how happy everyone was when we made an announcement at a church picnic. A couple of weeks into the pregnancy, I miscarried. I felt bad when people asked how I was doing and had to tell them I lost the baby.

A year later, Joe and I were down in Florida hanging with my parents, and I got a call from Sally. Her husband, Michael, had a brain tumor. Could I come and help out?  Suddenly, I was on a plane to Boston to take care of her girls (ages one and three) for two weeks.  Michael’s surgery was successful, but he had melanoma.

A couple months later I got another call from Sally. The cancer had moved into his lungs and they were going to conduct surgery again. Could I come? I stayed for another two weeks. The cancer was encapsulated, so they removed part of a lung.  When Joe picked me up at the airport, I told him how thankful I was that our marriage was good and strong and that we were in good health.  I said that if we never had any children it would be okay because we were already blessed in such a huge way.

Within less than a month, we received a phone call from Joe’s mom. Joe’s cousin (an OBGYN) had a 15 year-old patient who was interested in releasing her baby. Were we interested? Could we come? 


Leah Geneva was born on my birthday, two months premature. She is named after her courageous birth-mom and Joe’s grandmother. Pretty amazing. So my prayer was answered and I thought that was it. We would just be adopting all of our children and that was fine because how in the world would I explain to my kids how they got here if I had some that were adopted and some birthed?

Child #2 was a specific decision. We chose to adopt a child from India. If you can believe it, we had to pick from three files. I tried bargaining with God. The conversation went like this, “If I only get one more, then I want a son. But if I can have more than two I’d really like a girl because my sister is my best friend.” I remember my friend Kathy, the social worker, said she knew which one was “ours”.

We picked Ramya Jane. Her first name means “true beauty”. Jane is my middle name.

Somewhere in the middle of that nine month adoption, I got pregnant again. The doctors never really did find out why we couldn’t conceive before. People said that they knew so many people who got pregnant once they adopted.
The truth is there are many more women who don’t conceive; you just don’t hear about them because it’s too painful to talk about.

Jesse Emmanuel was born two and half months after Ramya was brought here from India.  (Thankfully, we didn’t have to go to India to get her.) We named him after my Mom’s dad.  Jesse means Jehovah exists and Emmanuel means God with us. What a tribute to our heavenly father.

Suddenly, I had three children under three, we were using cloth diapers, and Ramya still had Giardia (you can look that up). It wasn’t easy, but I was the last person in the world to complain. As a matter of fact, after a year or so, we talked about adopting another child. (I remember thinking God wasn’t big enough to get me pregnant again.) This time, it would be a boy from Belarus and we’d call him Michael Joseph (Joe’s name flipped). The paperwork was all filled out, but we never made any decision to move forward with the adoption. Finally, we both looked at each other and realized we really had no business spending money we didn’t have. I realized that if we were to add another child to our family it would be God’s decision, not ours. We threw that application away.

About two weeks later, I was pregnant. Clara Grace was born three years after Jesse. She is named after Joe’s amazing mother and it was only by God’s grace that I was able to get pregnant again! Unfortunately, I got blood clots with Clara and my doctor said “no more babies”. What a weird place to be for someone who never used birth control!


If you want to know the rest of Sally’s story she lost her husband. He died within the year. A couple years later she remarried and had three more children. I really wanted five kids but God shut the door on that desire. It wasn’t until much later in life did I realize why.

I love the fact our family is so different. It’s a testimony to how God makes families in so many different ways and with so many different appearances. When the children were little I was always asked if I was running a daycare. Or we’d have neighborhood kids tell us we couldn’t have a dark skinned child in our family. Most people think Ramya looks more like my biological child than the others. Who would have thought?

Our children have known how our family was knit together from the very beginning. If you asked Leah she would say, “Mommy’s belly was broken and I came out of Leah Beth’s stomach.”  Ramya would say, “I came over from India on an airplane.”  Jesse would say “he came from India too”, because saying that your Mom’s belly was “fixed” just wasn’t very interesting. Clara always told people she came out of the (Narnia) wardrobe. I always thought that was the best answer. God has such a great sense of humor.

It hasn’t been easy but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My life verse:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.  Proverbs 3:4-6

Trusting In Him,

CCS Faculty 112015
I’ve been married 28 years to my best friend, Joe. We have four children: Leah (23 and working as a 4th grade teacher in Honduras), Ramya (21, a senior at Lindenwood), Jesse (20, a junior at Augustana College), and Clara (17, a senior at Westminster). I love to camp with my family, garden, bake and hang out with friends. I’ve been the librarian at Central Christian School for over 10 years, and of all my jobs (office manager, telemarketing manager, home economist, appliance sales rep) this has been the best and most rewarding. My students always ask if I’ve read all the books in the library and I always tell them I’m working on it.

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7 thoughts on “Girls’ Night Out Story #2: Nancy Gruneisen

  1. Molly October 2, 2015 / 7:29 pm

    Thank you so, so much for sharing your story. I’m so thankful He gave you to Leah, Jesse, Ramya & Clara! What a powerful story of God’s love for His children. Plus, your family is how our Clara got her name!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anita Ojeda October 2, 2015 / 9:14 pm

    What a beautiful story, Nancy! Thank you for sharing it with us. We could only afford two children (teacher’s salaries don’t bring in much), but now we have 72 kids (ok, they aren’t all ours, but we work at a boarding school for Native American students). We love them all and some of them even call us ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ :).


  3. Kelly Herrenkohl October 3, 2015 / 8:01 pm

    nancy – if you are reading these – please know that God has used you and your family’s story in amazing ways. Thanks for loving your kids and your friends and random folks who looked to you and joe for encouragement and inspiration many years ago is STL. Love seeing that picture of your beautiful family!! Xoxoxox – Kelly (mom to an unlikely and amazing brood: Eliza (15) Daniel (13) will (11) and Adam (9)))

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Debbie Doriani October 7, 2015 / 10:35 pm

    What a beautiful family! Inside and out. We love you all dearly. D&D

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dusty Crenshaw May 31, 2022 / 9:45 pm

    I absolutely LOVE this story. I knew you had a special family the first time I met you all. The bond is amazing! And yes I too thought, “Ramya looks excactly like Nancy.” I am so thankful God has crossed our paths. My heart tells me “Our” future together as a family will be such a grand blessing. Leah, Ramya and Clara are such beautiful, strong and loving ladies and are a joy to be around. Jesse, oh that Jesse has a piece of my heart. You and Jo are truly AMAZING!!!

    God Bless you all,

    Dusty Crenshaw


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