When Life Goes Off-Roading

A baby lost. Singleness prolonged. Families incomplete. I always feel different, changed in some deep way when I hear stories like these about faithful people who have plowed through serious heartbreak.

No one expects to lose a newborn baby, one you’ve carried around for nine months, rubbing your belly while whispering prayers of forever. No one expects to stay single for seventy years when you’ve felt a desire to start a family for as long as you can remember. No one expects to have trouble getting pregnant after a lifetime of carrying around baby dolls and dreaming of changing your name to “Mom.”

And yet, these are the stories of women who I know. I suspect they are the stories of many.

I’ve always struggled with goal setting. The age-old question, “Where do you see yourself in a year? Five years? Ten?” When people say they’re saving up for their forever home, nothing about this equates in my brain.

Perhaps it’s what happens when you’re born into a family who’s had to do a lot of off-roading, veering off the paved path due to unexpected road blocks. My mom was pregnant with me at her mom’s funeral. She didn’t know it. Nothing about that timing feels like dreams staying on course, just as planned. In many ways, it set the tone for entering a family filled with mysterious illness, which tends to physically and mentally send you off-roading into some serious high waters and muddy messes.

But God grows beautiful things in the pit of despair. I’ve witnessed it firsthand.

There are pieces of our stories that take us to unexpected places with flavors of pain we probably wouldn’t select off a menu. But we find the beauty in looking back on a relationship with a husband that beat all the odds, bringing you closer together as you both grieved the loss of a child. Beauty in God answering prayers of loneliness with deep, deep rest that teaches you how much you are truly loved and cared for. Beauty in a family that’s formed in unpredictable ways, taking a shape that’s completely unique from others.

Here’s what I know about off-roading: It might not keep you safe and tidy on the clean and paved street. It might look messy plowing through mud and water. It might mean you’re moving a whole lot slower.

But you are still moving. There’s an adventure that’s so painfully annoying when you’re in the middle of the mess (and if anyone tries to tell you “enjoy the ride” while you’re trudging through. it’s likely you’ll respond with completely valid annoyance). You’re likely to ask (a million times), where are we going? Why are you taking me here? Is this seriously the only route to get there?

Only time will show you the love that has grown deeper with those who go off-roading with you. Only time will show you the beauty of the brokenness that doesn’t define you, but has certainly shaped you today.

Slowly, I’m learning that hopeful expectations are good things to hold onto when we can also expect that the messy journey to get there will look different than we could ever predict. There’s no metaphor to make it all go away, familiar platitudes simply obnoxious.

What I hope is that you’ll at least share your story about baby blankets and counting sheep and where you dreamed your family would be in a year, five years, ten years from that day circled in your planner. Because there’s someone out there suffering today who needs hope for what’s to come on the other end.

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