Bekah was born on a clear November evening. As mothers do, I remember that day when we turn the calendar to the month of her birth. I remember the way the oak trees along wolf creek beamed with tawny leaves, glowing radiant orange beneath the setting sun the night before she came to us. I remember the contrast of kelly green fields of clover against the leaf-strewn wood line, and I remember thinking she’d never arrive.
Preparing to welcome our firstborn to the world felt mostly like one giant detour in the plans we had made. I planned to continue teaching right up to my due date. We planned to vacation in the summer. I planned to continue leading Bible studies, ministering to teens, and dedicating entire weeks of my life to youth retreats and mission trips throughout the pregnancy. I was sure I’d be able to keep running until at least the seven-month mark.
None of that happened.
It was a detour that hurt. I felt like my entire life had been taken away. I was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum – severe pregnancy sickness – and forced to an immobile position on the couch or in bed throughout much of the pregnancy. So much for running, mentoring, and teaching. It all had to stop.
It was a crushing detour. So many of the things that were closest to my heart were taken away, and I was forced to simply rest – alone with my thoughts and my nausea.
What do we do when life takes a detour? What happens when all of our best-made plans are suddenly stripped away?
Looking back, I’ve realized that often, what I thought was a detour was actually the destination God had ordained for my good.
I can truthfully say that the months of hyperemesis were a destination of sorts. Throughout those months, I learned that my worth is not at all related to what I can produce or whose life I can make an impact upon. I learned that God loves me relentlessly even when I’m too sick to engage in any sort of spiritual discipline. I learned that it’s ok to need other people. I learned that if all I had left in this life were Jesus, he would be enough. It wouldn’t be easy. But I’d make it.
Toward the end of the pregnancy I made a list of 102 things I learned through the sickness. I’m not sure where I put that list. I’m pretty sure I made it with the hope that God would see all I’d gleaned from the experience and spare me throughout the course of future pregnancies. (I was sick the second time too, so apparently the list didn’t accomplish the entire purpose I had hoped for it, but that’s ok.)
The experience reminds me that life often seems to move in the opposite direction of what I had planned or hoped. Sickness comes – sickness more serious than hyperemesis. Dreams are crushed. Plans are shattered. But God is still good.
And sometimes the detour is actually the destination. Sometimes we fully believe God called us to climb to the top of the mountain, and we do everything we can to get to the summit. When an unforeseen valley springs up between the foothills and the summit, it’s easy to wonder where God’s at in the valley. And when the valley winds through the mountains and eventually leads to an entirely different mountaintop, it’s easy to wonder what God’s purpose is. It’s easy to wonder if we heard God wrong.
But often, we heard God correctly from the beginning. He simply wanted to show us the first mountain to get us moving in the right direction, and he knew all along that he would lead us to the valley that redirected the journey. God does this. And we can rest in knowing that when we seek him with our whole hearts, we will find him (Jeremiah 29:13). He will lead us on the journey.
Watching Bekah barrel through a leaf pile in the yard, seven years feels more like a week. And I’d take that detour all over again for this one mountaintop moment with her.