Wednesday, June 8, 2016

On Faith

The funny thing about being a big family-homeschooling-farmer's wife mama is that people who don't know you (or even those who do) tend to view you in a certain way.  Certain assumptions are made about what you might believe, what your life is like, what your values are.  And often those might be safe assumptions. But just as often, they will prove to be misleading.  I have already written about debunking the myth of a perfect life in terms of "doing it all" (most irritating phrase ever, amiright?!).  But I also can't deny that I have been enormously blessed in terms of a happy marriage and these five sweet children, and so many other things, and that can read as "perfect" to some people.  I know how easy it can be to look at someone else's life (online especially!) and feel like they have a more ideal life in some way.

Mother's Day 2016

But here is the truth:

Comparison is a losing game, every single time.  

Each of us has been given some gifts, and each of us has been given some brokenness, and what we do with the two define our lives.

I have been feeling a nudge to tell you the story of how we became a family. And I have been ignoring that feeling because the idea that anyone would ever be interested in hearing this story seems like total narcissism to me.  But I have also learned to pay attention to when an idea won't leave you alone.

Because this story is one of how obedience to those quiet feelings can change everything.

If you haven't guessed,  I am a Type-A, oldest child, perfectionist.  I have known exactly what I wanted to do with my life since I was about 10, and I knew what I need to do to get there.  I had a plan.  I was good at school. I worked hard. I didn't get into trouble. I had my steps mapped out... through age 50.  On paper. (Now there is a cringe-worthy read).  High school-good college-law school-politics-rule the world-done.  I am not really kidding.  I didn't want children and I was only vaguely interested in getting married.

I had just graduated from college, and I was in my first year of law school.  I loved it.  I had a great apartment downtown Chicago, good friends, and I was having a good time.  Seth was getting his Masters back down in Champaign, and we were in the middle of a maybe-breakup over distance and priorities.  But things were mostly going as planned.

About four months into my first year, I started feeling really unwell.  Like, I thought I got food poisoning. More than once.  Hmm.  And I was a level of exhausted that I hadn't known existed before.  I thought I was just working so hard that I was overly stressed.  (HAHAAHAHA.  I die.  Sweet 22 year old me. Bless her heart. You all know where this is going. I had no clue).  After yet another week where I was whining about feeling awful, a girlfriend in my study group said, "Cheer up!  At least you're not pregnant!"

Well.  About $200 in pregnancy tests later, every one of them agreed that I was very pregnant.

There are a million and one things about the story from this point that break my heart and I would do SO differently now. But I am not ashamed to tell it, because it is the foundation of my entire life.

A baby was not in my plan at all, let alone during my 1L year. So before I did anything else, I called Planned Parenthood and made an appointment.  You guys, I had this handled. I was so sure of myself, I didn't even tell Seth before I made the appointment.  (Seriously, it really didn't even occur to me that he might have an opinion.  As in, it did not even cross my mind once).  I called and told him when to show up, and that was that.  I wasn't delighted about it, but I wasn't worried about it either.  I could go on and on and tell you that it was an agonizing decision, but that would be a lie. I had zero second thoughts about it.

The day comes and they do an ultrasound first. Turns out I am almost 12 weeks pregnant, which is on the later side, but still in the "okay to proceed" zone.  Fine with me.  We have to go back out to the waiting room and wait some more. And I am just sitting there on those plastic chairs looking around the room at a bunch of other girls waiting too.  Every single one of them was probably between 14-18, and they were all so alone.  Not a boyfriend, not a best friend, not a mama with them.  Each of them looked scared to death.

Out of nowhere, I felt like God spoke directly to me and told me that we were doing the wrong thing. We did not belong here.  This was highly ridiculous to me at the time, seeing as I did not believe in God, and certainly He had never spent any time talking to me and telling me what to do.  So obviously I tried my best to ignore it, because I was not a stupid girl who acted on voices in her head. But it was absolutely insistent about being obeyed.  So to Seth's total shock, I stood up and walked out.  We got in a cab and went directly to Barnes and Noble and bought parenting books. And I have never even had one second of wondering if that was the right thing.  Not a single doubt, not even one moment where I looked back at my own plans for my life, and wished I had made a different choice.

I immediately felt a sense of peace wash over me, and it never left.

To this day, I cannot tell you why I obeyed.  I am terrible at being told what to do, and I am a born skeptic. The idea that God might being speaking to me or have a plan for my life was inconceivable to me.  I knew that I would be seriously disappointing some of the people closest to me.  Even Seth had a few stunned minutes of "what the hell just happened in there?"  And trust me, I would not understand it either if it hadn't happened to me.

When I woke up that morning, having a baby was the last thing on earth I wanted.  When I went to bed that night, that baby was the only thing I wanted.  I can't give a more satisfying explanation of WHY such a sea change occurred...

Except maybe this: 

One of my dearest friends told me later: "My mom and I have been together praying all day that you would change your mind.  I just knew it was the wrong thing for you."  At the time, that didn't strike me.  Now, that brings tears to my eyes.  Because the thing is, there are so many ways you can handle it when someone close to you is acting against your deepest values.  Loving her anyway and quietly praying is such an underrated and underused form of love and faith.

Today, that baby, Olivia Kaileen, the joy of our hearts, turns 11.  


I terrify myself every day thinking about what if I had been stubborn and prideful, and not obeyed something that I did not yet understand.  Because I well know my nature.  It is only grace that saved me.

And I still don't understand grace well enough to tell you it was a sure thing - that, of course, I would have always chosen this way.  But I know enough to tell you this:

He has built me a life of undeserved peace and blessings, on that one act of obedience. 

He has given me everything I did not think I wanted, but exactly what I needed.  I know enough to tell you that the Lord will mess with all your perfectly laid plans, to give you the purpose and the plan that He has for you, if you listen.  And that His purpose for your life is better than your best ideas, by far.  (Consider these: Me leaving my job to stay at home. Having five kids.  Homeschooling.  Being a farmer's wife. Owning my own business. Writing this post.)

This girl is the before-and-after dividing line of my life. 

The point you can look back at and say, "that is exactly where everything changed."  I am so grateful for the mercy and JOY that she is in our lives.

It took me another five years to even pick up a Bible.  

If Jesus is not your thing, I get that.  I really do. And I'm not trying to change your mind.  I don't really think you can "bring people to God" or whatever else evangelism tells church people to do. But I do believe in telling our stories.  In saying "this is what God has done for me, and I can't explain it, and it may seem messy, but there it is."

Maybe you have something in front of you where you feel an insistent push to take action, and I just want to say: DO IT.  Act in obedience.  You don't have to see all the whole path in order to take that first step.  The odd thing is, God rewarded my obedience to something I had no faith in by then giving me faith.  When I look back now, it is obvious to me that there was always a greater plan for my life, I just didn't know it yet.  And I couldn't see it.  Every painful situation from my past has given something that I needed to fulfill my purpose now.  I might not always like it, but I can see how it all connects.

And where I can't see the connection yet? I wait.  

If you are not there yet, stay open.  Pay attention.  Listen to those nudges carefully.

Lest this all seem too simple and rosy, I should tell you that very few people had the same sense of peace about this course of events as I did at the time.  Our various sets of parents were very unhappy and disappointed in us, and at one point some were even fairly aggressive about trying to talk us into making a different choice.  Someone close to me is still so disappointed that I didn't stick to my original plan that they have barely looked me in the eye in the past 12 years.  We were young and broke and we made plenty of mistakes along the way too.  But we have loved each other, and our girl, every day since then and she is deeply loved by our friends and family as well.

If this happens to be your exact situation, know that I am not implying that everyone should make the same choices I did.  If it would help, I am happy to talk anytime.  

It will be okay, I promise.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. (I edited it)


    I remember that.

    Thank you for sharing.

    So happy for you! God bless!

  3. (I edited it)


    I remember that.

    Thank you for sharing.

    So happy for you! God bless!

  4. (I edited it)


    I do remember that time.

    Thank you for sharing.

    So happy for you! God bless!

  5. God always knows what is best for us and we can be blessed if we only happy for you and your family that you did...may God continue to use you and your family. Love in Christ .Kay Brown

  6. Love it; should go viral.

  7. About the time, I feel I am at a point of utmost respect for you, Shannon, you raise the bar by once again penning a story that is so inspiring, so real, so transparent!!! God truly had a plan when He spoke to you that day. Isn't that humbling to think the Creator of the Universe cared that very moment what was happening with you and Seth? With the many talents and gifts He has given you, it will continue to be exciting as to what that ultimately will be in the coming days, weeks and years. God bless you dear Shannon!! LeAnn Ross

  8. You know Marines don't cry right? So how can write something so absolutely beautiful that it brings this proud Marine to tears. The words you have chosen to share with us in your blog are so honest and pure that even the hardest of souls will be moved. Thank you for taking a chance and laying it all on the line. May I share your story?

  9. You know Marines don't cry right? So how can write something so absolutely beautiful that it brings this proud Marine to tears. The words you have chosen to share with us in your blog are so honest and pure that even the hardest of souls will be moved. Thank you for taking a chance and laying it all on the line. May I share your story?

  10. This is a beautifully and powerfully written piece. As a fellow Christian, i wondered if you could clarify your last comment. Surely you are not condoning abortion as a morally acceptable alternative to the choice you made to have your precious child?

    1. Sarah, I have not and will not judge the choices other women may have made. I am not called to that. I am called to love the people who come to me in the best way I know how.

      Thanks for asking for clarification!

    2. I think many wrongly assume that taking a biblical stand on an issue is somehow "judging" others and their choices. Jesus is the ultimate example of love, but we see that he also called out sin where he saw it. I just wouldnt want any Christian woman reading this to be misled and believe that abortion is ever ok in any circumstance. The Bible is very clear on the issue and i would encourage anyone who is unsure to read the following:Psalm 139:13, Jeremiah 1:5, Exodus 21:22. Thank God you listened to that small voice, and I would pray that others would understand the preciousness and sanctity of human life!

  11. Thank you for being brave, for sharing your words. You bless my heart continually and I can't wait to see how God uses your words to open the door for others to obey Him.

  12. To share this story is an act of bravery and of love. It is what actually happened and regardless of others' faith, has so much power because it is true. We are Roman Catholic so can absolutely agree with you on many points here.
    Tears streaming down my face. Happy birthday to your sweet girl!!

    God Bless.