Thursday, August 29, 2013

story matters...

I shared part of our family's story in RUF tonight, as we've just begun studying the book of Romans together this semester.  Tonight focused on "story matters."

Here's what I shared...


When I hear people throw around the phrase "God has a wonderful plan for your life," I honestly can't help but cringe a little inside. I do believe that God has purposes for everyone, and that He is masterfully writing a story in each one of us, but many times, I'm not sure I'd be so bold to call it a "wonderful" plan.

Because what about the dark chapters in our stories?  The chapters filled with tragedy?  How are these so "wonderful"?  What about the times when I feel God painfully stripping away at the things I desire, in order that my desires might line up with His?  What about the times when I made so many stupid mistakes and created addictions to soothe my pain?  What about the unjustifiable parts in the story for which no one will ever be able to give me an answer?   Are these, too, a part of "God's wonderful plan"?

A few years after we were married, my husband, Marc, and I began experiencing the disappointments and heartaches of infertility.  We longed to have a child.  Over the course of two years, we tried everything medically possible: in vitro, frozen embryos, you name it.

It was as if God was playing a cruel joke on me, preventing us from having a baby.  We were desperate and grieving.  These were not moments I could have believed something as simple and trite as "God has a wonderful plan for your life."

But it was through those awful chapters of infertility that God led us to a twenty-one year old girl named Megan, who was, at the time, five months pregnant with what would become our baby girl, Caroline.

At the birth and adoption of our sweet Caroline, it was as if the world was set right again.  The story resolved!  And for two years, I basked in the role of being a new mom to a beautiful baby girl.  Though the adjustment to motherhood was definitely a challenging one, I felt God's care for me.  His faithfulness to bring us through tough times was evident.

And then, one evening Marc and I noticed several locks of her wavy, brown hair missing.  We'd find her pacifier lying in her crib, mysteriously covered in hair.  We'd rinse her head in the bathtub and notice bald patches appearing and growing.

WHAT IS GOING ON, GOD?!?! I anxiously cried out to Him.  What am I doing wrong that I can't even keep HAIR on my child's head??!

Over the next ten months, Marc and I tearfully and helplessly watched our vibrant, active toddler metamorphasize into what looked like a sick, bald cancer patient.

Now, it would take me pages and pages to sufficiently describe the inner agony I experienced during this time.  It might sound a little dramatic, I understand.  Afterall, it was just hair.  But you see, in my story, this was NOT supposed to happen.  I HATED the story that was unraveling for me and for my daughter, and you better believe I fought it tooth and nail.  I was not in control here.   Her hairloss was called alopecia totalis, something I had never heard of before.  It wasn't a sickness, but more like an allergy her immune system developed to her own hair.

A bald daughter, God?  Really?  That didn't exactly fit into the dreams of what my family would look like.  No.  This story was not acceptable.  I was supposed to have a typical looking kid, and deal with the typical kid stuff.  And here God was making me the Mama of a daughter who will have to face the challenges and insecurities of life without a single hair on her head.  

This was not going the way I wanted it to go.  As I wrestled against the Author, I progressively began to see the beauty in the Psalms of Scripture.  Not necessarily in the "Great are you, Lord" Psalms, but those with words like "How long will you forget me, O Lord?" and "Darkness is my only friend" kinds of Psalms.  That's just where I was.  And to think, a holy God included these types of deep lament in His scriptures to encourage me and invite me to express my anger and my doubt to Him.  He could handle it.

At the end of that looong, dark chapter in my life, I was finally able to accept alopecia, thanks to the Holy Spirit, the community of believers around me, and some really good counseling.  I began to embrace this "wonderful plan" the Lord had for my life.

But when it came time to adopt a second time, I was gripped with fear.  What birthmom would ever pick my family now?  What birthmother would want to place their precious baby into a family that looked so unusual?  As you can imagine, having a bald daughter means we get alot of stares and varying reactions from people in public.  It was hard enough dealing with our daughter's differences, so we decided we'd adopt a caucasian baby.  You know, minimize the reaction.  

And then, last October, there came a birthmom!  She narrowed it down to two families to interview, and we were one of them.  We loved her, she loved us.  But in the end, she picked the other family.

Once again, God prevented!  No, no, NO!  This was NOT how the story should go, God.  And it left us speechless and full of doubts in His goodness.

But HE knew what He was doing.  HE knew the story (dare I say "the wonderful plan"?) He was writing loooong before we did.

Because it was that pain of being rejected as parents for the lily white baby boy that caused Marc and I to ask questions about what the Lord's purposes for us might be.  Maybe God had written baldness into our story to prepare us for more stares, more differences.  Maybe we weren't supposed to be the normal, white family who takes the family portrait on the beach in matching white polos and khaki shorts.  Maybe God was calling my family portrait to look different than what I had initially hoped.

Maybe all those urban mission trips to the southside of Chicago that caused Marc and I to fall in love with the richness of African American culture weren't in vain afterall.  Maybe our conversations about having a black son throughout the years weren't just in folly.

Maybe God was preventing us for a greater purpose.  And maybe, in the midst of such great pain, now was the time.

So around midnight one evening in early November, Marc and I made the commitment to pursue the adoption of a black baby boy, which sadly is the least desired type of infant to adopt.  I sent a quick email message to our case worker requesting her to change our paperwork before heading off to bed that night.

Many of you know what came next.

Less than 8 hours later, another birthmother and birthfather sat in front of five family photo albums to select just the right family for their baby.  And when they saw the joy on the face of my beautifully bald daughter, that's when they knew we were the family for them.

Well, of course.  Because isn't that just how God works?   The thing I feared would KEEP us from adopting a baby now became the very reason I WOULD receive one.

That same afternoon, November the 8th, a Haitian birthmother went into labor.  Not a single soul was present at the hospital to welcome my son into the world.   Only a male hospital worker stood at her bedside, holding her hand and reassuring her that what she was doing was an amazing thing for her baby.  Eleven days later, Marc and I were handed a bundled-up 6 pound baby boy with radiantly beautiful CHOCOLATE SKIN.

I'd NEVER have imagined that my story would include a bald daughter and a black son.  I'm still in shock!  It's not the story I would have written for myself, but in the end, underneath such stinging pain, God actually was writing a more wonderful story than I could have imagined.

He did have a wonderful plan for my life, but it didn't look the way I thought it would.

I've learned that God loves me FAR too much than to simply give me what I want.

It's at this point my story (and all of our stories, really) say "to be continued." Most of the time we don't have any idea what He's doing or what lies ahead for us.  We dream, we hope, we tell Him those things that we would like.  But who knows what He will choose to write into the future chapters of our lives?
He doesn't promise it will be easy, but He promises He will always be with us.
He doesn't promise us a story without suffering, but He offers us His Son.  A Son who knows suffering.

He knows what He is doing.

We can trust the Author's pen.


  1. God does have a wonderful plan for our lives. His purpose is for us to glorify Him. And your family does that. Thank God for my little "different" family. Thank God for working things for our good and His Glory!

  2. Perfect timing as our family slogs through continued mental health and physical health trials! So encouraging to wonder at the bigger picture that all these dark avenues might lead into...

  3. Beautiful! I'm so glad the students were able to hear this! Now bring that beautiful bald daughter and chocolate son to New Mexico to see the Collins family!