Ten years ago I told my then-boyfriend I was pregnant while we sat on a round picnic table on our college's campus at 6 a.m. We'd been a couple for 6 months + 1 day, and had loose plans to get married the following summer. Afterall, we both had about a year of college remaining, and while neither of our parents were paying our full tuition, both had jobs that discounted our tuition. A discount we'd lose if we got married, and we couldn't afford that.
None of that mattered now, because we chose our fate a different way.
We sat on that table, feet propped up on the seat below, blue-capped stick in my hand with the word pregnant displayed in tiny digital letters as evidence. My then-boyfriend now-husband managed four simple words in his just-out-of-bed morning stupor: "Are we big enough?"
Looking back, I can say we clearly were not. Two more pregnancies later, I wonder what parent is ever fully prepared or "big enough" for what we're walking into, even when we think we know.
The words I wrote to God in my journal back in my dorm room after that groggy, pre-dawn exchange ring true even now 10 years later. "'Are we big enough?' Truth is: I don't know. But I do know You're big enough and that's all that matters to me."
As we navigated through doctors appointments and Medicaid application, premarital counseling and wedding planning, and so many first trimester symptoms, we'd dream a little. What would it be like to be married and have a baby? Everything was crazy, rushed, financially bleak (tooth paste got a line item on our first joint budget because literally every cent mattered), and it was all covered in a fog of
What about 10 years from then or even 5 years? What would life be like after time slowed and finances improved and we caught our breath?
Where would we live and work? How many years before we'd buy our first house and have our next baby? When would I start working on getting my Masters (because a bachelor's in English doesn't do much for a career)? Where (and when) would we go on an anniversary vacation since we couldn't afford a proper honeymoon? Surely 5-10 years would be plenty of time to start checking all of that off our list.
We didn't know--how could we?--that two years into teaching, Daniel would lose his job and change careers. That the job suited for him with great benefits would actually start with less pay than his salary as a teacher. That we'd wreck our car with only liability insurance and waste months and dollars recovering from that. That we'd have news of our 2nd pregnancy in the middle of his job uncertainty, and news of our 3rd pregnancy the same month we'd decide it was financially irresponsible for us to have anymore kids. That maintaining family expenses would derail us from paying off our student loans. That my being home while our kids are young would matter so much to us--enough to put everything on hold financially.
We hadn't yet experienced for ourselves that just as time moves on, so do life circumstances and how we choose to respond to them. I'm learning I can get caught up in the privileged self-pity of it all that we didn't get our "rightful" honeymoon, we still aren't any closer to owning a house, and we're still a poor family living on one income with too much student loan debt.
Or I can see how Jesus' grace covers us and provides for us even after (and as) we screw up His plans for us. While choosing a different fate for ourselves changes our trajectory and places us paces behind our peers in the accouterments of this life, we are actually forever rich in God's mercies.
A few days after the news of that first pregnancy settled, when 3 days felt like 3 long, drawn-out weeks, I wrote out some of the lyrics to a hymn: "Come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace. Streams of mercy never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me ever to adore thee, may I still Thy goodness prove, while the hope of endless glory fills my heart with joy and love."
Ten years after our small little college lives got flipped upside-down, I can't help but wonder if it was meant to be this way. Sure, it clearly wasn't God's perfect plan for us, and imagine where we'd be if we followed His plan! Still, this side of Heaven--this sin-stained Earth side--I wonder if the veering from the plan in some ways is the plan for Jesus to bring us back to Him.
If it wasn't this particular life choice, it'd be another, and often it has been more than just one choice that gets us off God's perfect course. These areas we mess up and are in need are just opportunities for our hearts to sing in His grace, for His blessings to flow in streams of mercy in spite of our scarred and messy humanity. Proving His goodness--not by His acceptance when we're "good," but by His persistence when we wander and veer.
The hope of endless glory fills my heart with joy and love... When I think of my 8 1/2 pregnant self getting a call of a job offer out of the blue, the God-given miracle to provide our needs while my husband finished his degree. When I think of our short homeless and jobless season that could have ruined us but by God's grace and my sister's kindness didn't. When I think of all the hiccups and detours and every step see that we weren't alone. While we weren't, and still aren't, big enough, we actually were never meant to be. We were always meant to see that God is.
I see that, even as ten years later we still face our same ol' mountains (that mostly revolve around finances). The miracle is that God saw us and assured us that we'd be okay anyway. That while our choices changed our circumstances, they didn't change His love. He wouldn't leave us.
There are times in our last 10 years when I praise God for the miracles in our impossible situations; when He delivers us because He can. And there are many others when I simply thank Him for being present in the midst of our struggles, because God is with us even when He doesn't heal us.
When we were on our college's campus this week, I snapped a picture of our three kids, including the one-that-made-me-a-mom, sitting on that same table my now-husband and I sat on ten years ago. I imagine going back to that young couple, scared out of their minds of the unknown that lay before them. I would probably just affirm what they already hoped: "You'll never be 'big enough' for the lives you'll live, but you will continue to celebrate all the times that God is."
Whether or not we've made the best choices that have led us here, God's not leaving us and never has. And for that, I am truly and deeply thankful.
new? start here...
our wedding story, shame-free
my motherhood ebenezer