I always have the best plans.
Seriously. The best. I lay everything out in my mind. I prepare. I dream. I anticipate. I map it all out.
You would think I would have given up planning by now.
When I was growing up, I “made the decision” that I would never have children. I proudly proclaimed that motherhood wasn’t in my plan, never stopping to think that perhaps the creation of life wasn’t up to me. After I was married and decided it was time to give this area of my life to God to do what He would with it, I lost three precious babies to miscarriage.
Our twins came and went five months into our marriage, and we lost another the next year. Nothing had ever humbled me faster. Nothing brought me lower. I spent so long believing I could choose whether or not to have children, that I could plan to do what I wanted with my fertility. I never considered that this would be decided for me.
I didn’t stop planning, though. Immediately after my second miscarriage, I became pregnant with my daughter. I was going to do everything perfectly this time. I would continue my practice of running and compete in 5Ks once a month, even while pregnant. I would eat healthily and stay active in order to give my daughter the very best home for precisely 40 weeks.
My plans, naturally, were derailed immediately. I threw up all day, every day, throughout my entire pregnancy. I had rare breaks between puking sessions, but I was so weak I could barely walk, let alone run. We had to make a few trips to the hospital for fluids because nothing I ate would stay down. I ate whatever wouldn’t come straight back up, which meant my diet consisted largely of chicken noodle soup and sour candy.
Despite all this, I was still going to have the perfect birth. With the best of intentions, I created a playlist of worship music that would provide the perfect backdrop to my daughter’s entrance into the world. I studied natural childbirth, got a birthing ball, and planned to labor at home for as long as I could before we drove to the hospital. There, I would deliver my daughter without any pain relief, allowing my body to work as God intended. You know where this is going, right?
My sister drove me to the emergency room on a Monday. I was 32 weeks along and my husband was painting the nursery that night with my father. “Stay home,” I told him. “My blood pressure is a little high, but it’s nothing. I’ll be home in a couple of hours.” He came anyway, and I didn’t get to go home.
I had suddenly developed severe preeclampsia. I stayed in the hospital that night with the intention (yes, there’s that word again) of going home the next day on bed rest. As we were packing up our things to leave on Tuesday evening, the nurse came in with my test results. I wasn’t going home.
We sat, bewildered, in the hospital room until the doctor called my husband’s cell and asked to be put on speaker. I remember words like “shocked” and “sick” and then he got to the point: “We’re going to have to deliver your baby first thing in the morning.” We cried and prayed and lay awake all night, trying to come to terms with the news that our baby girl was coming 8 weeks early and wouldn’t be going home with us for a very long time.
She was 3 pounds, 7 ounces, so small she could be held in one hand. But I didn’t get to hold her. She was whisked away into the NICU, and when I did get to meet her the next day, I saw more of the wires and monitors than I did of her. I sobbed, overcome with love and fear and the feeling that I had failed her.
My body had failed to protect her, had failed to be the stable, secure home she needed. This wasn’t what I had planned. None of this was what I had planned. A few days later, we left the hospital without her. I will never have words to describe that feeling. I just pray I never have to feel it again.
Every day we made the journey to the hospital to visit our baby. We held her delicate frame and read to her about Jesus and prayed over her. And every night we went home to an empty nursery, where I would lie on my face and pray through anguished tears. I swore I was done planning.
Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:14-16)
I have learned more, since my daughter was born, about God’s perfect plan than I ever thought possible. You see, my plans, however well-intentioned, are nothing more than arrogant schemes in the shadow of God’s perfect will. I believe, without a doubt, that He planned her birthday for February 11, 2015. Her arrival was eight weeks early to us, but right on time to Him. He was neither surprised nor shaken.
We were drawn closer to our Sovereign Creator as we watched her being formed before our very eyes. We were forced to be trained in complete dependence on our Jehovah to provide our strength as we left her in the care of strangers (who eventually became family) every day and night. And as we felt the pain of separation from her, we knew for the first time the depth of our Father’s love for us and the great lengths He went to in order to bring us home.
Oh, I wouldn’t change a thing. My plan for Mellie’s arrival sounded perfect to me, but it more than paled in comparison to the glorious, miraculous way in which God escorted her into the world. How He loves us.
I still plan things. I haven’t learned. And God still shows me how wrong I am. After all we went through with our sweet Mellie Christine, I said we were going to wait a while before our next baby. We needed a break, of course.
I suppose I was simply asking for a positive pregnancy test. Mellie is due to become a big sister in a few short months. And while we may hope this new little baby comes on our schedule this time, we know from experience that He has a plan “to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,” according to His power at work within us. To Him be the glory, forever and ever. Amen (Ephesians 3:20).