The Happiest Place on Earth

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Earlier this summer, our family made a pilgrimage to the ultimate summer vacation destination, Disneyland. As we navigated the crowds, I noticed a common trait among our fellow mouse-eared tourists. With the exception of a few overstimulated toddlers and stressed-out parents, everyone around us was smiling and laughing. The strangers we met waiting in line, the families schlepping around snacks and sunscreen, the teens, newlyweds, and retirees – most people appeared to be reveling in the magic of their surroundings.

Before we left on our trip, I had decided to memorize Psalm 84. Halfway through our vacation, I realized how fitting it was to meditate on the happiest place in Israel while visiting the “happiest place on Earth.” Strolling through a joy-sparking atmosphere helped me imagine what it might have felt like stepping foot inside the tabernacle courts, except surrounded by songs of praise rather than reprises of “It’s a Small World.”

What made the tabernacle such a happy place? It didn’t boast fun rides, huggable characters, or photo opps galore. No, the greatest draw for the Israelites to visit the tabernacle was to be with the One who lived there.

Read full article at Unlocking the Bible.

Every New Beginning Comes from Some Other Beginning’s End

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It’s here. A day I’ve been simultaneously dreading and anticipating. The first day in a chain of revolutions that will repeat and progress, accelerating toward spinoff.

Both my sons are now attending school full-time. They’re still under my care, still living at home. I hope to always represent home to them.

But they’ve grown up. Those wings they’ve so desperately wanted to spread unhindered are getting airtime. They get to expand their minds and explore new terrain, spending a good portion of their day learning from others. They’ll gain skills, make mistakes, help and be helped by friends, mature into men of wisdom and integrity, all without me present. I don’t have to supervise, referee, lecture, defend, or nag them ’round the clock.

Each of us is ready for the change.

Firsts and lasts
Going to school is exciting, as many firsts are. First words, first steps, first time sleeping in a big boy bed. Each new action precipitates wonder and possibility. We love celebrating all that’s new.

A first also necessarily brings a last. If something new is coming, something old must pass. You quit a job to start a new one. You dump singlehood status to enter into marital bliss. You leave home to move away to college. You drop your youngest baby off to his first day of kindergarten and end your role as an all-day caregiver.

It’s the end – not of the world, not of life as I know it. Some call it the changing of a season, or closing of a chapter. I’m calling it death.

That phase of scheduling my day around meals, naps, playdates, bathroom stops; of whipping out wipes like a gunslinger when a cup inevitably spills; of trips to the library and park and loathsome grocery store; of cozying up on the couch, reading away the afternoon; of losing my temper, again, and coming to them, sobbing, embracing them in sweet reconciliation – it’s done. I can remember, but not bring it back. That stage died.

Yes, of course, I’m being dramatic. No person died. My life isn’t ruined now that my kids are in school. My identity, though closely interlinked with my sons, doesn’t hinge on being a mom. I have a husband, for one thing. We like each other, and like doing activities together. I keep busy, invest in relationships and ministry, look for ways to create and connect. Better than all that, I know Jesus, and am known by him.

No, life isn’t over for me, even as a stay-at-home mom whose kids aren’t home all day, anymore. This next phase of parenting holds bright expectancy for joy. Yet I can’t deny, and don’t want to suppress, the real grief over the ending of an era.

It’s OK to be sad that I’ll miss it.

Mourning dust
That’s life for ya – an inexorable series of deaths and resurrections. It’s the circle that moves us all, if we’re to believe the philosophy espoused by The Lion King. From a tree centered in a garden to a tree staked in a skull-shaped hill, the cycle repeated throughout biblical times, and continues ad infinitum today. Like a line from a ’90s pop rock favorite of mine, “Closing Time,” copping a quote from Stoic philosopher Seneca, the world echoes:

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

Endings come in waves – through a flood, across a tumbling wall, in a veil torn apart; by winter’s invasion and crushed dreams and relational doors slammed shut. Death never wins, though. Just as winter cedes to spring, so do ashes birth life. Jesus rose from the dead and raised us up with him, granting us a new home, new family, new richness in living for him.

If death is merely a vehicle to greater life, why do we loathe it? Victors in Christ have nothing to fear; he defeated condemnation. At some point, you’d think we’d get used to it, the cyclical pattern of dust to dust.

Yet when the dust is beloved, and it flits away, accessible only by reminiscence, we cry. The end of something is the loss of something, and those left behind are made losers.

God has made us for eternity, and we crave its permanence. Even in small shifts from one season to the next, we feel the pains of labor, groaning along with creation for ultimate restoration – when all will truly be well. Our bodies of dust are continuously handed death in order to unveil resurrection.

Every passage of an age shows us greater glory awaits, and weighs on us in the meantime.

Paradox united
I recently read my boys a chapter from a children’s devotional that whacked me with irony.

“When Stars Die” explains how those big balls of gas eventually peter out, shrivel up, and soak in massive energy until they explode in a jaw-dropping supernova. The author compared this phenomenon to Christ’s death on the cross, and how it was both a horrible tragedy and beautiful spectacle of grace.

This paradox will never cease to amaze me. I doubt I’ll fully grasp the depth of the gospel mystery this side of heaven. Why would the only Perfect Person die to save a thoroughly imperfect me?

Only God knows.

I see him now, but dimly. I thought I knew him, but am just now awakening to how all of life points to Christ – the small and momentous ways that recite his miraculous narrative. Moments like saying goodbye to my youngest at his first day of kindergarten display a necessary death that initiates joy unfolding. It’s exciting and hard, as you’d expect any birth to be.

All the emotions that accompany the birth/death cycle – tears of anguish and rapture for arrivals and homegoings – coexist at the cross. Life doesn’t spin in futility. We have a Savior who secured a future without pain, fear, or sorrow, and who stays in us and with us, renewing our hope for the unseen.

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. ~ (Romans 6:4)

There’s a carpet unrolling before me, leading to new life ahead. Sure, it’s just one goodbye in a series of beginnings and endings that will repeat all the days I’m alive. Yet this one small goodbye reminds me that death’s next of kin is birth, and weeping for joy and grief can be exhaled within the same breath.

I’m sitting here, typing this, crying because I miss my baby; glad because we’re being reborn.

Image courtesy Element5 Digital on Unsplash.

How I’m coming to peace with Insta-sham

Scanning the socials several months ago, I stumbled onto some posts that nearly caused me to gag up my morning oatmeal.

A group of intrepid mommy bloggers had published a book on all things motherhood, and the authors were fulfilling their due diligence promoting their work by re-posting readers’ photos.

Every single image they shared portrayed the same essential look: warm lighting touched with pleasant sepia hues, superbly manicured stationary objects tidily arranged around the book – a steaming coffee mug here, an artisan afghan strewn there – all positioned on a seamless backdrop of a vacuumed rug, sparkling marble countertop, or the blank canvas of a clean and empty table.

You see why this sight triggered my spew impulse, right?

In my honest/cynical opinion, this is as Fake Not-News as it gets. For one thing, for those with young children, unless your kids are having screen time or napping, there’s no chance in Hogwarts you’re reading a book in peace. Furthermore, I know few moms with children still living at home who can maintain Pottery Barn-perfection and have enough time to stage a stunning portrait without getting interrupted by a sibling feud or having someone smear applesauce across the photo shoot background.

Such is life in the captivatingly fraudulent world of Instagram. Filtered snippets of other people’s daily activities lure us in like moths to the flame of glimmering gratification.

Images like the immaculate motherhood book pics bother me because they don’t depict reality. Sure, those who post their best and brightest photos aren’t necessarily trying to mislead others; we all realize these are just the highlight reels. Still, I have a hard time wholeheartedly liking photos that project everyday scenarios as tranquil and glamorous when I know from personal experience that these situations can be chaotic and even hideous.

Despite my reaction, I’m coming to understand a deeper motivation for why people tend to post their most picturesque clips and gaining a new perspective on aesthetic appreciation.

We crave beauty because God made us that way. He crafted us in His image, to be like Him and to long for Him as the true source of goodness and life. Our desire for and delight in spectacles of wonder throughout God’s creation reveal the blessing and purpose of our redemption.

As John Piper says of the ultimate reason we exist: “Our final inheritance is this: that we will see the glory of God and praise him for it. We will see his glory, savor his glory, and show his glory.”

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Worshipping God by appreciating the marvels of His creation – a concept highlighted in a previous IF:Equip study on the theology of beauty – can remind us of who He is and who we were created to be:

“By learning to recognize the beauty around us, we can better see God’s reflection in everyday life. We remember that this world, while broken, will be made new and perfect once again. This gives us great hope. Beauty lodges like eternity in our hearts, bringing memories of a good God and a future world.” (Lesson 1 Day 1)

You don’t have to be a raging pessimist to recognize the ravages of sin upon God’s perfect creation. The world is fallen and we groan along with it, waiting for the Creator to finally and fully restore its original luster. Until that glorious day, we continue to live in the reality of sinful destruction and acknowledge that it bites.

Feeling both a compulsion to expose the ugly truth of real life as well as an urge to experience genuine beauty demonstrates our dual earth/heaven citizenship. This could explain my disdain for the façade aspect of social media, knowing that the images displayed don’t align with the difficulties experienced in our broken lives.

But in focusing on the earthly perspective – that my life is a wreck and the world is a mess and everyone who lives here is a dirtbag – I tend to overlook the glimpses of majesty the Lord graciously reveals around me and forget to appreciate His goodness in wanting me to experience joy.

So, although it’s enjoyable to rag on faux-flawless social statuses, I think I could stand to cultivate more admiration for images that people intentionally craft to please the eye. After all, any illustrations of beauty we encounter are just that: imitations of splendor deriving from a greater Source of wholeness, peace, and brilliance.

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.” (1 Corinthians 13:12a)
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Praise God that we will one day behold the glory of His radiance and not have to settle for viewing life through the dull looking glass of Instagram. Our longing for true beauty will finally be sated as we look full on our Savior’s wonderful face – no filter needed besides His precious blood.

[Cover photo: Dmitri Tyan on Unsplash]

Swan song for the little season

As the leaves are shifting colors and the millenials are rushing to grab their long-awaited pumpkin spice lattes, I’m passing into a new season that’s eliciting emotions as variegated as the shades of fall.

I’m now a school mom. My kids are going to school. One in kindergarten, one in preschool, which means that for six hours out of the week, there are no children in my home.

That’s cause for celebration, you might think, and you’d be right. Not just for me, gaining valuable “time for myself,” but for my sons, who are growing in knowledge and facing constructive challenges and discovering more of this big, beautiful world God created. I’m excited for them, excited to see how they will flourish in these new adventures, and excited for me to be able to go grocery shopping and not have it be an adventure.

But honestly, I’m also sad. My season of motherhood is changing. Six hours without children means I’m mothering less. That’s not to say that a mom who works full-time outside the home or a SAHM with all school-aged children is any less of a mom – their children are continuously present in their minds and hearts and daily activities. They’re just in a different season or situation.

As my oldest stepped foot inside his kindergarten classroom, I crossed a threshold of another kind, entering the school phase, starting to leave the early childhood phase.

I’ll miss this phase – the getting down on the floor building train tracks, shaping Play-Doh cuisine, reading and snuggling on the couch, soothing hurts with kisses and tickle fights phase. It is a time when – to my ever-living vexation, as well as my gratification – my kids were almost always with me, and needed me for so many different things. It is a role I longed for, for so long, and finally got to experience, and enjoyed immensely.

That’s why, when I waved goodbye to my son and stepped foot outside his kindergarten classroom, I let the tears loose and marveled at how five years passed by in a blink of milestones, building upon one another, leading to greater possibilities.

It is the beginning of something new; the closing of a chapter of something precious.

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I took my youngest to toddler story time at the library the other day. Yea, I know. Potential big mistake. Spending time with younger mothers, or at least, mothers with younger kids, might be a painful reminder of what once was – their tiny scampering tots and snappy strapped baby carriers and swelling belly bumps a blatant, flashing signal: THIS IS NOT YOUR WORLD ANYMORE.

I smile at them. I watch their little ones waddle around, fall down, cry.

I remember those days, caring for two 2 and unders. They were hard. I was exhausted all the time, frazzled half the time, probably legitimately semi-crazy.

I’m glad I’m not currently in that season. I loved my babies when they were babies, but I don’t need them to be babies anymore. I don’t need to turn back time. Getting past spit-up and tantrums and potty training is a blessed thing.

Why, then, do I feel this twinge of sadness knowing all that is behind me? I see these other sweet mamas, scooping up their children and cradling them at the hip, and my heart bursts with thankfulness for my own children – that, and a sort of wistfulness for the times I used to scoop them up and cradle them.

This amalgam of emotions is hard to explain. The best comparison I can come up with is perhaps a woeful commentary on what we all now hold dear: our own entertainment. Imagine Netflix (because network TV is mostly terrible) just announced it is still airing your favorite show, but with four fewer episodes. You’d be bummed, right? This means you’ll have less pre-prison flashbacks, alleyway fight scenes, and stranger things to savor. Your enjoyment has been diminished.

There’s another way to think about it. I have several female friends who are amazing craftswomen. They create exquisite works of art with ink, with thread, with wood, with both inert and organic materials. They pour their love and lifeblood into their designs – you can tell – and in doing so, bring pleasure and beauty to those around them.

Being a hands-on mom of young children is like that for me. It’s where I thrive. I have hobbies and other creative pursuits – writing being one of them – but this mothering gig is my favorite. Of course I’m not perfect. That’s not the point. It’s simply something I enjoy. One of the best things in the world for me is making my kids laugh, and laughing with them.

God gave me this gift of motherhood, and I have relished it.

Motherhood gift new

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I have a list of approximately 142 topics I want to blog about, and this isn’t one of them.

I don’t know why I’m writing this jumble of words. Usually, I have some type of higher purpose for writing and sharing personal reflections beyond mere emotional appeasement.

Certainly, it’s not to make other mothers who disliked the early childhood phase feel bad about themselves. We all have ages and stages that aren’t our cup of tea. Middle schoolers scare the crap out of me.

Perhaps it’s to encourage young mamas to “cherish every moment.” *Gag* No, that’s not it.

Or it’s to warn others about idolizing their children and seeking satisfaction in ways that only their Savior can fulfill. Oh wait. Been there; done that; felt the regrets; blogged about it.

Lacking a solid concept, I go to the all-wise Internet for guidance. I find a reassuring article by Jen Wilkin talking about the back to school blues and Christian mommy guilt – that is, the tension a mother feels as she questions if she loves Jesus as much as she loves her kids. She explains that although we might view love as limited and quantifiable – like a “cosmic batch of heart-shaped cookies” – our love for our kids can express our love for Christ; we take the cookies He gave us and give them to our kids, which, ultimately, gives the cookies back to Him.

Jen Wilkin cookie quote new

That’s a lotta cookies and a lotta love. I like the sound of that. Maybe that’s my point.

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Besides that part of me that wants to turn this into a moralizing mommy lecture, there’s the part that wants to slap myself upside the head and shout “Pull yourself together, woman! This is not a Bachelorette breakup-level crisis! It’s not like your boys are going off to college yet.” (As a word of advice, do not read Jen Hatmaker’s Facebook post describing when she dropped off her oldest son at college. Just don’t. It’ll destroy you. Same goes with the Nicole Nordeman slow-the-heck-down-time song.)

Really, this is not a crisis; it is a process. We are transition-ing, adjust-ing.

My boys are adjusting to the lengthened time apart from one another, and figuring out how to manage their divergent strategies for coping with that separation (wrestling vs. talking). I’m adjusting to having a modicum of peace and quiet. My husband is adjusting to me having a modicum of peace and quiet during which I plan new cleaning and organization projects for us to work on.

As the four of us continue adjusting and learning and growing individually and together through this new school phase, I look forward to seeing how God continues writing our family story. I anticipate discovering what my kids will learn in school, who they will love and marry, how they will bring light and goodness to the world around them.

Through all of that learning and loving and light-bringing, I will thank Him for giving me this family and for making me a mom. And as I thank Him, I will fondly, gradually bid farewell to those early childhood days and a season of life I will treasure forever.

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#HonorAllMoms

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Mom. A word that evokes…

So many labels:

Biological. Adoptive. Foster. Expectant. Bereaved. “Real.” Birth. Legal. Spiritual. Single. Working. Stay-at-home. Soccer. Helicopter. Teen. Grand. Great-grand. God. In-law. In-love.

So many descriptions:

Sleep-deprived. Stressed. Worn out. Exasperated. Caring. Strong. Selfless. Gracious.

So many emotions:

Grief. Bitterness. Worry. Disappointment. Joy. Pride. Gratitude. Love.

So many seasons:

New. Veteran. Challenging. Fulfilling. Full house. Empty nest. Waiting; waiting; waiting: For the positive test. For “the call.” For the paperwork to go through. For them to come home. For them to leave home. For you to go Home and see them once again.

Whichever your type, whatever you’re called, however you’re feeling, wherever your place…

You are important. You are worthy. You are loved.

Your Heavenly Father is carrying you, His precious child, as you carry yours in your arms, in your heart, in your clinging to Him.

#HonorAllMoms

A tribute to Tummy Mommy

 

Due to the craziness of life I’ve been pretty terrible at keeping this blog updated. It isn’t for lack of timely topics about which I could wax eloquent: the Susan G. Komen/Planned Parenthood debacle, the Obamacare birth control mandate, and the reported demise of Khloe and Lamar’s marriage partly due to their struggles with infertility – if you think that’s the only thing driving them apart, apparently you don’t keep up with his insanely annoying in-laws.

What finally motivated me to get off my literary butt and write something was the celebration of a special day that for a few years brought me sadness and heartache. I thought about sharing a very Emo poem I wrote one Mother’s Day awhile back, but decided to save that for another time when I was feeling more pensive and melancholy. Instead of singing that same old song about my pain and suffering, I wanted to talk a little about an important person who has significantly shaped my life and blessed me with one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever been given.

Since adopting Calvin, I’ve fortunately not received many comments or questions about me being his “real” mother. This has always struck me as a silly thing to say, when you think about what “real” means. And I’m not talking about a full-blown Matrix-style ontological discussion; I just think it should be obvious in many cases that the adoptive mother is a real mother, and not some random woman posing as the child’s maternal caregiver. Of course, what people are really asking is if the adoptive mom is the biological mother, and for lack of understanding about the appropriate terminology, refer to the latter as the “real” mother.

Calvin is very blessed to have two women who love him extravagantly. As his adoptive mom, I get the incredible joy of caring for and nurturing him every day, fulfilling the traditional role of being a mother. His birthmother, or Tummy Mommy as we call her when with Calvin, does not get the opportunity to see him or take care of him on a daily basis, but her love for him is no less real or important. She carried Calvin for nine months and made a difficult decision to place him with an adoptive family because she loved him and thought that was the best plan to give him a full and happy life. And because of her decision, she gave me and Colin a much fuller and happier life.

Many people ask me what it’s like when we go visit our birthmother and her family, which we try to do 3-4 times a year. In all honesty, I kinda freaked out the first few times, but always before we saw her. In anticipation of our visits, I would worry that she would be jealous of me getting to take care of Calvin, or I would be jealous of her having a biological connection with him, which I believe is important even if the birthmother is living a terrible lifestyle and/or making poor choices (totally not the case with ours). And, because our adoption situation entailed a waiting period before parental rights were terminated, I was afraid that she might change her mind, even though she gave no indication of doing so.

However, by the grace of God, my fears were relieved every time we met up with her and her family, so much so that I was able to truly enjoy spending time with them and seeing them interact with Calvin. And now that we’ve hung out together several times, I look forward to seeing her and her family, and want them to hold Calvin and play with him as much as possible to make the most of our visits. Seeing the joy on her face as Calvin smiles and laughs with her makes me so happy, because I know what a wonderful little guy he is and how being with him makes my heart full, and I’m glad she gets to experience that, too.

This sharing of joy can be difficult to understand for those who have not adopted, or who do not have open, healthy relationships with their birthmothers, and frankly I didn’t get it either until we adopted Calvin. I have to give his birthmother much credit for being so mature about our interactions and for showing us a great deal of respect. The first day we met her, before we even got to see Calvin at the hospital, she referred to us as Mommy and Daddy. She clearly expressed her desires to have an open relationship with us and Calvin, and completely accepted the level of openness and communication guidelines we stated at our initial meeting. That first meeting at the adoption agency with her and her mom was quite incredible, because although everyone was understandably nervous at first, we hit it off right away, and it soon felt like we were old friends hanging out, shooting the breeze talking about sports. Colin joked that her family of Saints fans must’ve really liked us, as they picked our profile – which proudly displayed a picture of us in Seahawks gear – right after the Hawks beat the Saints in the playoffs.

And since then, we’ve felt more and more comfortable spending time with our birthmother and her family. We ask how they’re doing; they ask what’s going on in our lives. It’s cheesy to say, but it does feel like we’re one big extended family. They give Calvin toys and clothes, and she often gives me or Colin a special little gift that she knows we’ll like – for example, she knows I love frogs and did a frog-themed nursery for Calvin, so she got me some frog-shaped soap bars along with antibac lotion from Bath & Body Works, one of my favorite shops.

I know this friendly, close relationship is not the case in other adoptions. Sometimes the birthmother and/or father cannot and/or should not have an open relationship with their children, and that’s OK. I’m a proponent of open adoption but don’t think it should be a requirement, and also understand that there are infinite shades of openness depending on the comfort level of the individuals involved. I’m thankful that we do have a good relationship with Calvin’s birthmother and her family, and that he will grow up knowing that many people love him.

Beyond our mutual love for Calvin, I admire and appreciate his birthmother for modeling God’s love in an amazing way. Most people, when talking about adoption and Christianity, emphasize the adoptive family’s role and the way they demonstrate how God adopted us sinners into His family of redeemed saints. This is true, and one of the reasons why I think adoption is so beautiful. However, people don’t often acknowledge the role of the birthmother, and how her sacrificial love for her child mirrors the Father’s love in sending His Son to die for us, and Christ’s love in willingly choosing to suffer death in order to give us life. Calvin’s biological mother, the one who brought him into existence and sustained him for nine months of growth and development, chose to give her son to someone else because she loved him and wanted to protect him more than she loved and wanted to protect herself. It is such a stunning picture of our Savior’s sacrifice that it brings to mind a refrain from an oldie but a goodie, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross: “love so amazing, so divine.”

I have many, many women to be thankful for on Mother’s Day: my own mom, who never tires of caring for and faithfully serving others; my grandmothers, who lived full lives honoring Christ and are now home with Him; my mother-in-law, who provides continual encouragement; and my grandma-in-law, who makes me feel like an important part of the Hesse family and tells great stories that I get to hear more than a few times. 🙂 And I am forever grateful for the mother who made it possible for me to be a mother. I thank her for the gift of our son.

The meaning of ‘worth the wait’

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I suck at waiting. Stoplights, checkout lines, doctor’s offices – all annoy me to no end. Whether it’s a minor inconvenience or a major impediment, any circumstance that places me in a state of suspense throws my contrived sense of order and stability into a maelstrom of anxiety-addled emotions. Put me on call hold, I’ll immediately start nervous toe-tapping or earring-tugging until I can find some way to multitask and make efficient use of the time. If you’re telling a joke and it takes longer than a minute to get to the punch line, save your breath; I may give a courtesy laugh, but really, I checked out 30 seconds ago.

This tendency of mine can partly be attributed to the influence of our cultural-driven conviction that we’re entitled to immediate gratification, which sounds like and is in fact a cop-out. More so than this, I think the reason I detest having to wait for just about anything is because it defies my plans. I’ve got a schedule that in my ever-discerning mind I approved to be good and wise and darn-near infallible. Thus, any disruption to this schedule wreaks havoc in the Universe According to Jennifer.

Once after venting to Colin about something or other, he remarked on how my complaints about my busted plans reminded him of the hospital scene in The Dark Knight, wherein Heath Ledger’s Joker persuades Harvey Dent (Two-Face) over to the dark side: “The mob has plans. The cops have plans. Gordon’s got plans. They’re schemers, schemers trying to control their little worlds. I’m not a schemer. I try to show the schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are.”

My pathetic attempt to control our family called for baby-making to begin four years ago. Once we decided to start trying, I wanted to get pregnant right away. Heck, I didn’t even want to wait for nine months of gestation; I was ready to have a baby from the word(s) go (procreate). In the big picture, I had been waiting all my life for the opportunity to be a mom, ever since I was little and bossed my siblings around while dressing my dolls and pretending to nurse my stuffed animals, which my siblings now tease me about as payback for the bossiness. Waiting to have kids until a few years after getting married was a sensible part of my master plan; having to wait a few years after deciding to actively pursue parenthood was not.

As Colin and I started trying to conceive, confusion about why things weren’t working right led to disappointment; disappointment over unsuccessful fertility treatments led to sorrow; sorrow over failed IVF and its implications for never getting pregnant led to despair. The waiting weighed down on me, stifling my hope to become a mom. Friends tried to offer encouragement through truthful yet irritating statements like “God has a plan” and “God causes all things to work together for your good” á la Romans 8:28. Thanks, but seriously people, I wasn’t born again yesterday. I knew God had a plan; I just preferred my own and could not understand why His caused me so much heartache.

And then, about a year ago, at one of the darkest points in my life, the Lord lifted a corner of the veil and revealed at least one purpose for the grief I had experienced. We got an e-mail from the adoption agency about a baby boy whose biological mother wanted to make an adoption plan, submitted our profile for consideration, and a few days later, exactly a year ago today, brought our son home. In all my visions of how I would have a child, I had never imagined it would happen that way.

After the initial shock wore off and the haze of newborn caregiving dissipated, I reflected on the road that led me to Calvin and realized that God had answered my impertinent, oft-repeated question over the past three years: “Why aren’t You giving me a baby?” As I looked into Calvin’s beautiful brown eyes and snuggled with him wrapped in the crook of my arm, I knew the answer was because He wanted me to have this baby. An adoptive mother from my church described a similar revelation she experienced the day she brought her son home: “All the years of infertility finally made sense.” The Lord turned my sorrow into joy by giving me the sweetest, most adorable little boy in the world. (Colin and I feel like we’re allowed to brag a bit about his cuteness because it’s not our genes that made him so stinkin’ cute.)

Of course, it’s not like my life suddenly became perfect after adopting Calvin, or that the sadness of infertility was erased, or, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, that my desire to get pregnant went away. Rather, all of the physical and emotional pain of fruitless medical procedures, feelings of failure and isolation and discouragement, and grief over the loss of a dream were worth it for this: to be Calvin’s mommy.

There are many, many things that happen in this life that we won’t understand this side of heaven. I’m so very glad that despite my lack of faith, God chose to show me a purpose for my suffering and give me an incredible gift as part of His perfect plan.