I had just pulled Haley Kate out of the bath and perched her on the counter while I brushed her thick dark hair. She was the inquisitive age of three. She was chatting up a storm and playing with her belly button when her curious eyes met mine.
“This bellybutton had food?”
I could see she was recalling a conversation I had with the older kids about food traveling through an umbilical cord to nourish an unborn baby.
“Yes, there was a cord with food going straight into…” I playfully poked her tummy, “there!”
“Me and Everett were in your tummy? Then we were just-born-babies? Both of us babies?” She cradled her arms like she does with her dolls.
I hesitated, realizing quite suddenly that the direction of the conversation required a truthful but gentle response.
“Yes, Everett grew in my tummy. Haley honey, do you remember that God gave you a different mommy’s tummy to grow in? You grew in another mommy’s tummy–“
Her eyes widened. Indignantly she protested, “No! I not WANT that Mommy’s tummy! I only want YOU!” As though by voicing her objection, she could change her history.
“I understand. But God picked another mommy for you to grow in.”
I lowered to her eye level, her little legs swinging off the end of the counter and her face perplexed. “Can I tell you what happened next?”
She nodded but her eyes flashed mad and she looked unsure that she would like whatever was coming next.
“The other mommy loved you so, so much but she couldn’t take care of you. I had been praying and praying for you! I wanted to be your mommy sooo bad.”
A hint of a smile appeared.
“You came to our house and Haley Kate–I was so excited I couldn’t sleep! Then you got to our house and you were snuggled up in your car seat, sleeping. I couldn’t wait for you to wake up and I couldn’t believe I would get to be your Mommy! I sat by you and waited and waited for you to wake up.”
“Also Haley, I talked to the other mommy. She was sad that she wouldn’t be able to take care of you but I told her, “I really want to be Haley’s mom forever.” I am STILL so glad I get to be your mom. I’m glad God grew you in the other mommy’s tummy. I get to be your mom for your whole life.”
She was smiling, a little goofy to cover any remaining confusion. Her eyes were guarded as she searched for a response.
“That’s a…crazy story,” she acknowledged while searching my eyes to see if I’d stick by the crazy story I had just told.
“Mmhmm. Maybe. But it’s one of my very favorite stories because it is your story and it reminds me how God made you a Taylor. It reminds me that God cares about us in our crazy stories. It’s a true, crazy story.”
Just like that her arms were squeezing my neck, a great tight squeeze that prevented her from seeing the tears on my face.
Weeks after my conversation with Haley, I was sitting in the sun with my cousin, while our kids ran through the sprinkler and dug in the sandbox. I shared with her about Haley processing her adoption at three-year old level, acknowledging that at each new phase of life new questions and understandings would be reached.
We paused our conversation to make iced coffees and snacks. When we returned to our lawn chairs I was sharing parts of my life causing discouragement and disappointment. It was the unfiltered, ranting, heart spill that an “in thick and thin” cousin can hear and give insight into. I laid it out, all the ugly parts poured out over dark chocolate, fast melting in the sun.
My voice was raised. “I don’t even know how I want these things to play out. I’m pretty sure there is no resolution or good ending. Seriously! God’s going to have to come up with something. I’d like to shelve it. Eh, scrap it.”
A sip of coffee later I added, “If you have any insight I would love it. If God has given you a ‘where from here’ kind of idea, don’t hold back.”
Then very deliberately with soft kindness she answered, “That’s a…crazy story.”
I didn’t respond. I couldn’t with the wind knocked out of me like that. The sun was baking us and I wiped sweat, hoping to keep tears at bay.
A crazy story? Like Haley Kate’s? A story that’s not the one we asked for? A story that’s not the one we wanted? A story that makes us want to hand it back to God and say, “I want a re-do”? A story that contains threads of redemption and hope, even if we ourselves have difficulty seeing it? A story we don’t get to control as much as we’d like to? A story that looks messy, full of sin, full of loss and grief, yet has the hand of God still working, still using it to point to Himself?
I realized my lamenting in the lawn probably sounded much like Haley’s, “I not WANT that mommy!” declaration. It’s understandable, yet it is what it is. We don’t always get to choose who hurts us, choose who leaves or enters our lives, where we land in our brokenness. Our lack of acceptance doesn’t change the reality.
I had never likened some of my own heartaches to my daughter’s heartbreaks. Of course. How many times have I looked at the Lord with untrusting eyes and a smile to cover it, “That’s a…crazy story.”
With humble conviction I was reminded that even the best story tellers, the most well meaning authors, do a crummy job with their own stories. If somehow they manage to not screw up their story, someone else certainly will. Only the Creator and Author over it all can thread together the mess, putting His hand on it to bring sense, redemption, and an ending that points to the Author Himself.
All photo cred: Evan & Lisa Oliver
Haley Kate and I are full of stories that have been partly written for us, partly written by us. We would change plenty about our stories if we could. Still, we see that even the messy stories can turn into our favorite stories. We have an all powerful Author who has the pen...for this crazy story.
Just throwing myself out there a bit...