If God is in the details, why am I still waiting?
By Katie S. and Lauren Allen
In a recent blog post, Lauren spoke about times when God speaks to us through what we can physically see, which caused me to reflect on the power that these visible signs can have on a difficult journey.
At the beginning of 2021, my husband and I were discerning a new step on our fertility journey. It’s something we had considered over the years, but now our circumstances had changed, external factors had changed and we gave it some serious thought and prayer. One day during this period of discernment, I took an old miraculous medal out of a drawer in my dresser. It had been given to me a number of years earlier on a pilgrimage but for a long time it had lived in that drawer, dusty and forgotten. I don’t know what prompted me to dig it out and display it on my dresser that day, but a few days later I moved it to my nightstand. I would see it before I went to sleep and when I woke in the morning. After a while I kept feeling a pull to touch it. I would nip into my bedroom to get something during the day and feel the need to touch the medal on my way past. The urge to have it close to me grew stronger so eventually I took a chain from another necklace and threaded the medal onto it so I could wear it around my neck. I wasn’t sure where this sudden attachment to the old medal had come from but I felt some comfort in having it on my person. I would catch myself twisting it between my fingers and would be reminded to redirect my thoughts heavenward and be aware of God’s presence throughout my day. Meanwhile we had decided to take the plunge on the next step we had been discerning and the day came for our appointment. As technical difficulties held things up, we nervously waited for the call to start and I anxiously fiddled with the medal around my neck. When the caller finally appeared on my laptop screen, the first thing to catch my attention was that she too was toying with a miraculous medal on a chain around her neck. On that day, this tiny thing was the little sign I needed; it erased any leftover doubt we had and told me that we were in the right place, doing the right thing, taking the right next step on our journey. After that, I soon found miraculous medals cropping up all over the place - perhaps I was hyper-aware and was noticing them more but there they were catching my attention nonetheless. It gave me the little boost I needed to be excited about this next step and hopeful for the future. I told myself “See? God is in the details!” At the end of the year, my husband gave me a new miraculous medal for Christmas and we took it to our parish priest to have it blessed; I felt uplifted by the thoughtful blessing he gave without knowing about the journey we were on.
Whether they’re big or small, these signs (messages, nudges, “God winks” or “God-incidences” - call them what you will) can be a boost that propels us towards the next chapter, like a much-needed snack that keeps us going until the next meal comes along. For a while we find ourselves skipping through the hard stuff with a smile on our face because of the encouragement we’ve taken from them. We hold onto these things (sometimes literally, as I absent-mindedly fiddle with the miraculous medal around my neck all day long!) as a sign of hope and a vote of confidence that we’re on the right path because we believe that God is working on the fine details of our story.
But what happens when the signs stop appearing? When the snacks stop coming, we’re aching with hunger and can’t see any meals on the way. When we start to notice all the food piled high on other people’s plates and ours looks emptier than ever. When we see other people’s stories falling into place and hear someone celebrating good news and exclaiming “Wow! God was in the details!” we ache as we wonder, “Why isn’t God in the details for me anymore?”
Cut to spring 2022, when our journey has brought us diagnosis upon diagnosis, surgery after surgery, and we’re physically, mentally and emotionally depleted. All around us are pregnancy announcements, births, baptisms and happy endings. I’ve no doubt that the same happens here as it did with the miraculous medal; when you’re hyper-aware of something, you notice it everywhere. Not only does everyone else’s good news seem to come along at once, but the timing of some of these announcements and events happens in a way that is so deeply and personally upsetting. It feels almost as if the details have been carefully crafted to add to our suffering. We no longer feel able to say “God is in the details” and we wonder why the beautiful details and “God winks” can sometimes be so painfully lacking when we need them most.
The times on our journey when we’re brought to our knees - when we look around in desperation for a glimmer of hope - can be the moments of vulnerability which invite transformation. And whilst these may be the times when the last thing we want to hear is another success story or someone else’s happy ending, I believe there is great comfort to be found in listening to how someone else understands their own journey with the benefit of hindsight now that they are in a new season. If we let them, those stories can be that next boost which sustains us over the coming season. They can serve as a reminder to us that the beautiful details we will marvel at in the future may not be evident to us while we are still weathering this storm, but that doesn’t mean the Creator’s hand isn’t in the details of our own unique story. Marveling at the details of someone else’s journey can be an important part of our own.
As I type this, my 5-year-old son is playing in the living room. My 5-year-old son. God finally answered our prayers after years of longing for a child; we have a son. Our adoption journey began in April of 2021 and oh, what a journey it has been! For me and my husband, the adoption journey was completely transformative; our hearts changed in ways I never would have thought possible. When we started our journey, we were only open to infant adoptions but over the course of a year, my heart and mind were opened. God was preparing my heart for something different - something new. God was preparing my heart for Peyton, preparing my mind for Peyton, preparing me spiritually for Peyton. From the outside looking in, I’m sure that it seems like we are living our fairytale happy ending, living “happily ever after” and our hearts are truly filled with joy. But I want to be transparent with all of you… we were weathered for hard times. The boisterous waves in the seas of adoption threw us around. We took a few hits, we took a few breaks. God used the storms and raging seas of our journey to increase our strength and harden us for the needs of our son.
This new season of parenthood is beautiful but it’s a much different reality than I had ever dreamed or pictured. Motherhood, like marriage, is a vocation. It’s a job. It’s a direction from God for work that we need to carry out here on earth. Some days are filled with joy and satisfaction, but others are filled with conflict and daydreams of past plans. The immense responsibility to raise Peyton to know and love the Lord is not lost on me, and neither is the commitment to hold true to my promises to him and his full family. I have a big job to do.
Peyton’s story is so unique and beautiful and it’s his own to share if he wishes to do so in the future. I will not share his story here. I will only share that if I had seen Peyton’s case in April of 2021, when we embarked on our adoption journey, I would not have said yes. I realize that I was not the person he needed in April of 2021. I had a lot of weathering to experience to make me strong for him first. When my arms were reaching out for an infant to love and care for, God knew that my son was already alive. God knew that he already had a smile and a laugh that light up a room. God knew that he already had a mind full of wonder and a beautiful singing voice (I’m a choir director and singer). God knew (strangely) that he already resembled myself and my husband. God knew - I didn’t. I didn’t know any of these things until we got the call to tell us that we were matched.
With what we know now, I can see that God was truly in the details through and through. He was in the details surrounding Peyton’s circumstance, He was in the details surrounding Peyton’s spiritual upbringing, He was in the details regarding maternity/paternity leave, He was in the details regarding travel. God was in the midst of everything. But these details were not part of my plan A. In my original plan, my son would have been an infant, my maternity leave would have started in December (aligned with winter break), and regarding travel, we would not have had to travel a week early to meet our son - we would have met him in the hospital, following his birth. In dreaming of my perfect adoption match, I didn't dare to hope for a child that resembled me, loved to sing and had great pitch recognition (you can read here about how I was mourning the idea of not having a musical child). I couldn't have dreamt of this miraculous life I'm living. My plan A was nothing compared to what God had in store for us.
It’s natural to look for signs that we are moving in the right direction, especially when it comes to making decisions about our families. I sought out those signs and “God winks” throughout my journey but, looking back, I realize that the winks I should have paid more attention to were the promptings of my heart, the changes happening internally. The whispers from God: whispers telling me “My plan is better”, whispers telling me to move in a different direction or to wait, and the encouragement from a friend to persevere. I should have listened more to the silence all around me.