In high school, I made a timeline of my life, on styrofoam poster board. It housed milestones from my past — places we lived, important relationships, accomplishments — and hopes for my future. Those included:

  • Go to Central Michigan University
  • Become a Special Education Teacher
  • Marry a youth pastor

These dreams became reality but there were also things that happened that were unplanned, like:

  • Job loss
  • Failed adoption attempt
  • Relational strain

Life does not always turn out the way we envisioned it.

In those unplanned moments, we are faced with a choice. Will we demand that we get our way, or will we choose to lean into the unexpected — focusing on the beauty that lies beneath the surface?

A surprising turn of events

We were planning on adopting our fifth child. I wasn’t planning on being pregnant at thirty-nine. But having a child four months before my fortieth birthday was one of the sweetest gifts I have ever received.

When I was pregnant with our daughter, my doctor did not make me feel old. He did explain more about genetic testing and such, but we declined. For us, the results of those tests would not alter our decision to embrace the unexpected. My ultrasound lasted longer with this baby than with previous pregnancies — probably because they wanted to be more thorough, given my age.

I am not offering medical advice here, but I want to mention that sometimes the unexpected curves in the road (and around our middles) can be the very thing that leads us in a new, life-giving direction.

Our youngest turned three on Mother’s Day, and I cannot imagine our lives without her. She is strong-willed like the rest of our children, thinks she is Elsa from Frozen (minus the cold shoulder), and warms our days with “I wubb ewes” that come at just the right time.

What if?

Many women fear that a child will disrupt their well-laid plans.

But what if this child will enrich your life in ways beyond what you can imagine at present?

What if this child will stretch you beyond what you feel capable of, and you will grow stronger and wiser because of it?

What if this child will be the one to champion a cause that will improve our planet?

What if this child will help you stay young at heart?

What if this child will cause you grief, yet choosing to love them was worth the risk anyway?

Unplanned moments are not always as glorious as the arrival of a new child. They sometimes come in the form of loss and heartache, or unfair treatment and betrayal. What then?

Managing the stress of unplanned moments

My oldest daughter, Brooke, and I recently saw the movie, Unplanned, about former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson.

There were many moments in Abby’s life that didn’t turn out as she had expected… things she wouldn’t have listed on a styrofoam poster board at her high school graduation party. Yet through the unplanned and unexpected moments of her life, a powerful story was written that is helping many find life.

Our willingness to pivot, or straight-up turn around and run in a new direction, can make all the difference — not just for us, or for today, but for future generations.

Birthing a child at age thirty-nine was not what I planned, but I have no regrets. It is not always easy, but it is worth it (and it keeps me young as I chase around a toddler between work projects and sporting events).

Choose to grow and thrive in this current season, even if it looks differently than you envisioned, because the unexpected things can stretch and shape us in ways that goals on a styrofoam poster board never could.

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