We dilute the beauty of the gospel story when we divorce it from our lives, our worlds, the words and images that God is writing right now on our souls. – Shauna Niequist
When I found out that I was pregnant I had to sit down. I landed in the chair that was a gift from my dad and stepmom, a re-upholstered antique of my great grandmother Edith. I imagine her with a wispy, mousy-brown bun, reading from a pocket New Testament or a first edition Betty Crocker. I never knew much about her other than her husband Gus died young. He was a farmer that looked (in the one picture I saw of him) like Ryan Gosling in The Notebook, only with real farmer biceps. The kind that pull themselves out of foxholes.
I stared at the stick my friend at work said I should drive to Walgreens to buy because that’s what women do when they miss their period for a week. I grabbed onto the smooth wooden arms of the chair, the arms that Edith had rested her own hands on. I looked down at the rough, gold material that was selected to cover the coils and puffs of whatever is on the inside of these old chairs. Reupholstering furniture is not one of my spiritual gifts.
I didn’t really think that this was something I’d ever do—buy a pregnancy test. Or have to buy, for that matter. I was only married for six weeks. I didn’t think I could even have children. But I did it—because that’s what women do, my friend said. And I waited there for a while—almost an hour, in fact—with a towel covering the little window of results.
I did a couple of things (pretending like I wasn’t waiting for a pregnancy test result), sure that I would be disappointed. I swept the floors and then mopped them with a broken Swiffer that I’d fastened an old cleaning rag to. After it got full of dog hair or grime, I’d untie it and ring it out in the sink and feel good about myself for being so environmentally conscious. In that moment, at least.
Why the Surprise at Something Good?
Despite things being pretty amazing by this point in my life and recovery, considering all the mess I had lived through and all the trauma, I still tiptoed around life. I was sure that the ball was going to fall at some point. The shoe was going to drop (whatever this means). Even though six weeks before, I walked down the aisle to Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, surprising the heck out of my family. Even though they all sang along as I cried tears of joy and looked towards a stable and handsome and driven and smart man. Disaster still lurked behind the curtain. I was sure.
Somewhere inside I still harbored the secret thought that God was going to disappoint me.
I’d be able to yell: “See!”
[As a side note, ladies: it’s okay to keep our prayers specific when we are praying for a mate or partner. My prayer was for a tall, green-eyed super smart hunk of a man who challenged me intellectually and spiritually and that is exactly what I got. He’s a 6''3" theoretical physicist and Methodist. Go figure.]
Our autumn wedding in Western Michigan 2017
Our early October wedding was a dream with wind, the kind that kicks up Lake Michigan in a beautiful frenzy and pouring down rain after the reception. A dusting of yellow leaves and fading Hydrangeas adorned the ceremony of only a few close family and friends. I wore a dress that was puffier than I had envisioned. My longing for something sleek and classy and white flew out the window as soon as I tried on this once-in-a-lifetime gown that made me feel like a combination between Zena the Warrior Princess and a giant tulle cupcake.
We picked out the flowers the morning of at a small floral shop where the owner looked on disgusted (apparently wedding parties picking out flowers in the morning for that afternoon’s wedding is looked down upon). My best person and I made our bouquets on the gray-marbled kitchen counter of the Air B and B before driving to the old white farmhouse where the physicist and I said our vows under the most glorious tree I’d ever seen.
I was the happiest warrior cupcake ever.
But even as it was happening in real time, I couldn’t believe that it was happening for me (it meaning the “normal life”).
When God Shatters Doubt
As I sat on the edge of the gold, sturdy fabric of the chair that had so lovingly cradled my ancestor’s butts and stared at the stick I had just peed on, I kept shaking my head “no.” I kept looking at it and then reading the instructions again.
One line - not pregnant
Two lines = pregnant
Do I have one line or two?
I looked down.
(Reading the box again).
One line - not pregnant
Two lines = pregnant
Once it finally sank in, I jumped up and sat down, then walked around as if in a trance; an, “I can’t believe I am pregnant! Am I pregnant?!?” stupor. I smiled the half-smile of someone who wasn’t quite sure if I should be happy. The fear already creeping in.
But I was—I was ridiculously happy. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that I actually got pregnant. I always had the sinking suspicion that if I was able to have kids, I would have had them by then—out of wedlock. Plus, I’d had my share of sexually transmitted infections that can impact a woman’s ability to conceive or so Google informed me. Maybe TMI—but that’s pretty much everything I write.
I praised God.
I praised God again.
A snippet of a quote from one of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning, came to mind: …freedom brings an appreciation for the lessons of captivity.[i]
Then I wondered what the hell I was going to do.
My husband was away on a work trip in San Diego doing some important sciencey stuff that I still can’t explain to you. He wouldn’t be home until around midnight when I was supposed to meet him at the airport. So, I decided to do what most privileged American white women do when they find out they’re pregnant: I went to Target.
I strolled the baby aisle and brushed my fingers against soft muslin and plush blankets and the teeniest tiniest onesies and miniature gloves and hats and little slippers with the heads and ears of forest creatures like bunnies and foxes and bears. Around me were other women who looked like me and were either starry-eyed with tight tummies or a little more drained looking with basketballs in their shirts or the women I couldn’t yet make eye contact with who looked miserable with one sucking a breast, another in a stroller and one drug along under the armpit.
It was winter, just before Christmas, and so I found the most adorable tiny faux leather boots with off-white fluff coming out the top. Both shoes fit on one of my open hands. I stared at these tiny shoes. There was going to be a little human in these shoes. I searched the clothing and tried to find something gender neutral. Not too frilly. I wasn’t sure what the sex was yet, but I had a suspicion that it was going to be a boy. I found a forest green and navy long-sleeved onesie that said something about going on a journey.
This was another coming out the strange wilderness moment for me. God showed up again. Despite my fear and unbelief. Despite my doubt that good things were going to keep happening, God showed up in a heart-wrenchingly beautiful way: I was pregnant. I couldn’t stop saying it.
On the way home from the airport, I was so nervous I could barely breath in the car. I had to roll the window down and the night air wafted in.
You can do this.
Though I didn’t exactly know what I was going to do. How was I going to say it? When should I tell him? We drove the familiar path back to our small rented house. Matt talked about his work, but I could tell he was tired from being on a plane so long, still adjusting to having feet on the ground.
We arrived and the dogs greeted us like they usually did—like they were the happiest they had ever been to see us, asking with their round, black eyes: where are the treats? Matt set his bag down and went to the bathroom.
This was my chance.
Even though he was exhausted and I was unsure, I decided I had to tell him. Immediately.
I took out the little boots and set them against the wall near the front door where the rest of our shoes were lined up.
This was really happening.
When he came upstairs, I led him to the doorway and pointed. I couldn’t even say the words.
He looked at me in shock.
And again, a few weeks later, we would learn that those two lines on the pregnancy test meant two babies.
That was the beginning of everything.
One year after our wedding...our twins in 2018!
When have you felt the surprising movement of God?
Check out my past podcast episode with preacher and author, Faith Eury Cho about how God moves in lovely and surprising ways!
[i] Manning, Brennan. The Wisdom of Tenderness (Harper One: New York, NY) 2004.