Thank God for surprises, part II

August 29, 2008 | 54 comments

This is a Part II to this post.

So there I was a few weeks ago, moping around the house, nauseated and exhausted, thinking: How could it possibly be a good thing to have a baby right now? Is it not a bit of a stretch to say that “it must be God’s plan” when the circumstances are so very far from ideal?

I had so many plans for this upcoming year, none of which involved another high risk pregnancy and having a newborn in March. In my grudging, grumbling prayers, I asked for some peace about it. I didn’t receive anything that seemed like a direct answer — no voice of God or chorus of angels giving me explicit directions — but I kept feeling drawn to think about the following two stories:


Story #1:

Just before graduation my senior year in high school there was a rumor that one of the popular couples was unexpectedly pregnant. Jason and Michele were part of the “artsy” crowd, always going to hip parties and listening to cutting-edge bands that the rest of us had never heard of. Perhaps because they were so cool and seemed destined for a life of travel to exotic places and rubbing elbows with musicians and artists, it was just assumed that they’d have it “taken care of.”

We were all shocked when they announced that they would get married and have the baby. What a mistake! They were throwing their lives away! Just think of these poor schmuks sitting home, a baby spitting up on them while the rest of us were out living the post-graduation high life by…uhh…hanging out with friends and, umm, occasionally going to some parties where they had some wine coolers. (Well, that made it sound lame, but surely our forthcoming lives of freedom would actually be very exciting and cool.)

Anyway, a few years later I ran into a friend of Jason’s who showed me a wallet photo of their family. They’d had another kid by now, and I had to admit that their children were just adorable. The friend reported that Jason was a great father who adored his kids. I still thought it was a shame, though. Yes, the kids were great; it was just the timing that was sad. If they had just waited a decade or so, had their twenties to live a life of freedom, then they could have had their kids and it would all be perfect. I had it all figured out.

A couple weeks ago, as I was lamenting the poor timing of my own latest pregnancy, a friend called to say that she had news about Jason. I was pretty sure it was that he’d gotten famous, that she was going to tell me to turn on MTV to see his new band or tell me that some art exhibit featuring his work was about to open.

Instead, she told me that he died. He was killed in a freak accident a few years ago, when he was 28.


Story #2:

The second story is about another couple I know. When they got married they decided not to have children. Ten years into their marriage, they were finally living the live they’d dreamed of: the husband had recently graduated from college (late because of his time in Special Forces in the army) and had a good job as an engineer. The wife had graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in math and had a promising career that started as a mathematician for the Naval Weapons Research Laboratory. They’d recently moved to Florida, bought a little plane, and would frequently take spontaneous trips to nearby islands with friends, sleeping on the runway by the plane when they’d used all their money for gas.

Just as all of these freewheeling, child-free good times were getting started, they found out they were pregnant. It was unbelievable. It wasn’t even their “fault” — they’d been using a reliable form of contraception. Nothing could have been more unexpected.

Though they were not theoretically opposed to abortion, they didn’t hesitate to keep the child. Unsure of what this new future would mean for them, what it would be like to embark on a radically different life that wasn’t of their choosing, they changed their lives 180 degrees to be parents. The wife left her career to stay home, and the husband threw himself into being a dad. They never had any more children, but ended up being wonderful parents who delighted in raising their one child.

This story is about my parents. The unexpected baby who derailed all their life plans was me.


When I have tried to pray about my stress about this extremely surprising pregnancy, I keep feeling drawn to think about these two stories.

The news of Jason’s death was a shocking reminder that none of us have a crystal ball. It startled me into realizing that my view of the situation was ridiculously limited: If Jason and Michele had carefully planned their children on the schedule that seemed best to me and everyone else, Jason would have never known the joys of fatherhood, his two beautiful children would have never existed. And just as I was sure that their pregnancy was “obviously” “bad timing, ” I had decided that my own new pregnancy was “obviously” “bad timing.” The problem, then as now, is that I do not have psychic powers; God has not chosen to share with me what is going to happen tomorrow, let alone next month or next year or 100 years from now. I can guess what the future might hold, but it would be just that: a guess. Hearing the news of Jason’s death was a wakeup call that I need to never forget that all my big plans for the future are ultimately founded on guesses.

And the story of my own unexpected existence was a reminder that God has a plan for every person’s life, even those who arrive in less than ideal circumstances. I hate to admit this, but under the physical and metal duress of a surprise pregnancy it’s been easy for me to think of this new little life as “the problem, ” a set of financial and medical challenges to deal with. Yet when I think of my own story, it’s easy to see that, as with every other human being, God loves me, he has a plan for my life, and he’s glad I’m here — and I too was once “the problem.” God already has a plan for this little boy or girl’s life, even if it wasn’t originally in my plan.

As I ponder these two stories, being drawn to them again and again as I pray, all I can say is: “Thank God for surprises.”


  1. Agnes Regina

    Thank God indeed, and warm congratulations, Jen.

  2. Anna


    You write:

    I asked for some peace about it. I didn’t receive anything that seemed like a direct answer — no voice of God or chorus of angels giving me explicit directions — but I kept feeling drawn to think about the following two stories

    One of the things I like about reading your blog is that I get to see you learning how to hear God’s voice, not speaking to us from outside or in our heads, but deep in our hearts where we can recognize the truth he leads us to.

    God bless.

  3. Anonymous

    Congratulations to you and the family. I totally understand what you mean about giving up our own plans and accepting God’s plan for us. Right now, I’m grudgingly accepting God’s plan for me too – I can’t have any more children (we have two) – and am trying very hard to put aside my vision and guesses I had for my future. It’s tough!

  4. Jan


    Your blogs always touch me very profoundly. Sometimes with tears, a renewed commitment to prayer and deeper daily reflection, other times with the urge to “rotf’ and “lol”.

    To quote someone who commented on one of Danielle B.’s entries, “God must love you sooo much!”

    I will be praying for you and your family.

    Caritas, pax et salus,

  5. Hope

    I had to learn through the death of my infant daughter that I am not in control and I am so glad that I am not! I am so glad that our God is Sovereign, even when it means a difficult road for me! The difficult roads can often be the best ones to travel because they lead straight to intimacy with God! May you come to enjoy this beautiful blessing and His Sovereignty!

  6. Shelly W

    I just love your blog–so profound and so real. I know you will handle this situation with every bit of grace that you can.

  7. Soul Pockets

    Your stories and what you share about your daily life and struggles inspire me. God has a plan and he would never steer His children wrong. God bless you, your family, and your new little life.


  8. Christine

    What a story. That is all I can say…what a story!

  9. Anonymous

    I am glad you are getting used to the idea of having another baby, and I agree that this is something that will most likely work out better than your own original plan, whatever that was.

    However, I do think there’s a temptation in these types of discussions to assume that God’s plans always somehow result in our own happiness, and that’s how these stories usually end. You don’t hear the story about the family that had one more baby, and one more, and one more, until they had nine and someone had a nervous breakdown, and about how all of those children grew up with emotional problems of their own, and with broken relationships of their own, having grown up with parents that were out of touch emotionally, etc., etc. The truth is that trusting God’s plan sometimes means accepting huge losses that we will never really understand in our time on Earth.

    I think this new pregnancy is going to be quite a trial for you, and I think your dismay was not inappropriate. Four kids under 3 (?) is a lot to handle. I’m happy for you, of course, but I also know that your future holds increasing sacrifices that may not be as easy to resolve in Hallmark channel fashion by accepting that God’s will is best for everyone. I’ll pray you strength for the struggle, and remember that in joining your suffering to Christ’s you are saving the universe.

  10. Anonymous

    Your baby is blessed to have you for a mother.

    Jane M

  11. Abigail

    Thank you Jen’s Mom, for forgoing sleeping on airplane runways to take care of a little baby who would grow up to be such a dear friend of mine! Beautiful post.

  12. Someone Being Me

    When I read your post I immediately thought of Jeremiah 29:11. God does know the plans he has for you and they are bigger and better than anything you could plan for yourself.

  13. asnipofgoodness

    God is always right on time, and his plans are always for our good, that doesn’t mean they always make sense, or make us happy, or don’t make our lives harder, but they are always for our good to draw us to himself, and help us to fulfill the purposes he has for us here in these earth suits we call bodies. The main purpose, to glorify him. You are doing that with your honest, insightful, and true posts. He is glorified, and I am blessed!

  14. lyrl

    Your recent posts on God’s plan reminded me of your series about God’s will last year, particularly this post. As always, you provide a lot of food for thought.

    It’s interesting that the story of your conception is so well suited to being seen as part of God’s plan. I can’t even imagine my own conception fitting into such a mold.

    My own background is probably why I lean more toward God having made Creation so that we can draw good out of anything (and anyone) that happens, and away from the idea that God plans each person’s existence.

  15. Tari

    Thanks for this post, and congratulations!

  16. Lucia Rosa

    Congratulations! I will be praying for you.

  17. Blog Stalker

    I love your new take on life. It is always hard to understand when we have to trust. We like to “know” and when we don’t we can’t see the good or the potential good that can come of a situation.

    Good luck with everything

  18. Kiwi Nomad 2008

    Jen, today I went to a funeral for a young man, aged 30, who was killed in a traffic accident. He had been married just six months, and I am sure he hoped for a baby soon. We simply don’t know what our future holds.

  19. Journey of Truth

    First off, Congratulations!

    Secondly, thank God you understand that God is glad you’re here and that He has a plan for everyone, whether it’s “inconveniencing” someone or not.

    God Bless you!

  20. Alexis

    Thanks for your honesty and for your balance. You’re in my prayers…

  21. Betsy

    Jen, what precious accounts. You are such a gifted writer. It makes me want to hug my children!

  22. Jon

    The talk about God’s plan bothers me a bit as well. While it sounds good when applied to surprise pregnancies or other challenges to which one can rise, it starts sounding kinda disturbing when it starts getting applied to cases like the death of the father in your first story or cases in which a person loses faith and dies. Is it really God’s plan that some should get lost and die in a spiritual wilderness? That sounds disturbingly like double predestination which, in a way, holds that there are people God doesn’t love enough to save.

    For myself I think I’d rather stick with offering challenges up to God by praying ‘Lord have mercy’, do my best to pick a faithful path, and trust that all the might have beens are just a road not travelled.


  23. Jennifer F.

    The talk about God’s plan bothers me a bit as well…For myself I think I’d rather stick with offering challenges up to God by praying ‘Lord have mercy’, do my best to pick a faithful path, and trust that all the might have beens are just a road not travelled.

    Sounds like you have a great way of looking at things, Jon. I didn’t mean to imply that I think Jason’s death was “in God’s plan,” though obviously He knew it was coming. Death is evil and evil is never God’s will. I do think the children, though, were a gift from God.

  24. Lori

    I, too, was once “the problem.” I’ll never forget when I figured out the math, and discovered that not only had my mother conceived me before she was married, but that she was in high school and chose to have me instead of graduate. It was 1969, and she could EASILY have “taken care of it.” But she didn’t, and I’m eternally grateful for her sacrifice.

  25. Elizabeth

    If we all waited around for “ideal circumstances” then we’d never get around to procreating! Thank you for your great thoughts, Jen!

    And thank you for linking to my blog; I’m honored you would do so.

    now you just need to add me to your blog-roll! 😉

  26. mariam_...

    I’m sure we all thank God for you and for all those who have faith and share it with others. Though none of us is indispensable, it’s true that He leaves His immense Plan in our tiny hands. Why is it so difficult to leave our plans in His enormous Daddy hands, if we believe they are full of love for all of us?
    Again, thank you for your story. God really speaks through it.

  27. Red Cardigan

    Congratulations on your pregnancy, Jennifer!

    My story’s different. After two preeclampsia pregnancies we started considering NFP–but then came the little pink lines again and our third girl.

    And then NFP for health reasons, and now a decade of no more so far.

    We still want a “number 4” very, very much. But only God knows for sure how many children He planned for us to have!

    If this baby ends up being last, or last for a long while, you’ll be so glad he/she came along when he/she did. I can’t imagine if our “#3” wasn’t here, and neither can her sisters!

    God bless!

  28. Anonymous

    Thank you so much for this. This is so encouraging. God bless you, faithful woman!!!

  29. Can I Change A Life?

    You bless us with your blog.

  30. Paula

    I will definitely keep you in my prayers, it will be easy as we’re due the same month! : )
    I pray that this pregnancy will not be as hard. I was kinda hoping God was done blessing us as #4 was so hard on me. But so far He has been merciful. I am usually so sick the first trimester and here I am, 12 weeks on Monday barely nauseous.
    As a past atheist myself I find it so hard when going through something trying to consider my suffering (at all times so trivial in the grand scheme of things) compared to Christ’s. I usually just moan and complain and mutter how someone is out to “get” me, or whine that I’m being punished for something – lol. I need to shift my thinking obviously.
    You are blessed! And thank you for your blog. I love to read it.

  31. Fallen Sparrow

    Congratulations! Prayers going up for you and your family.

  32. Elizabeth

    Hi, I just found your blog and will be back. Your story gave me chills. DH and I are currently trying for another (the munchkins are praying for twins).
    God Bless you and your family, EJT

  33. kris

    Only God knows what is necessary for my own salvation.

    This is something I have come to contemplate more and more. It is especially relevant when dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. I have five children and when I have been confronted with the many anxieties and worries which come along with being open to new life I have had to think of this.

    God is ultimately concerned with getting me back to Himself. he WANTS me to be with Him forever. Because this desire is a divine desire it trumps all of my own earthly desires no matter how noble or holy theu may be in their own right.

    I may say “But Lord I have so much of Your work to do. I must busy myself with evangelizing the world. I can’t have another baby now!” To which He responds “Only I know what is necessary for your own salvation. I choose to send you another little one because I so long to have you with me forever.”

    God Bless you and your new little one

  34. Michelle

    Congratulations on the new little one. I too am expecting a baby in early March. It was a surprise to me and my husband because our son is only 10 months old. But I firmly believe that God wouldn’t give us what we couldn’t handle. God’s plan works out better than anything we could have put together ourselves in the end as both of your stories prove.

  35. Carrien

    My husband was just away for a week. He was in Thailand and spent a few days in Burma as part of research for a nonprofit we are starting that involves us moving to Thailand next year and working to help Burmese refugees. Because of this plan to move we are doing what we need to to avoid pregnancy using the Billing’s method. I’ve only had 3 cycles since the last baby. We both don’t think it wise to try and attempt an international move and a new nonprofit mission, which may involve taking foster children into our home, while I am pregnant, again.

    It was not a very dangerous trip as far as trips go. But there are always plane crashes. Or motorcycle crashes. OR all the things in the jungle that can bite him, or make him sick.There are Burmese policemen and military who can be unpredictable.

    But I do this thing where I imagine the worst just to be prepared if it happens. And so this week when I thought about the idea of him never coming home, because something happened, I realized I would only have one regret. And you can probably guess what it is. My one regret would be that I am not carrying another child right now.

    In fact the last three months have felt like several tiny griefs at all those missed opportunities to welcome life. I would never have thought/felt this way 7/8 years ago when I started having children. And while I believe it is wise to not try to have another baby right now, it would be my 4th as well, and I hate being pregnant, it’s miserable and very hard on our marriage also, I still feel this longing in me for this season to end quickly, because I feel that there is at least on more blessing to be received once we open our hearts to it.

    I hope you will soon be able to rejoice in this unexpected blessing, even while you feel overwhelmed by it all as well.

    ps(state subsidized medical care for mothers? California has it depending on your income, does Texas?)

  36. co'

    God is indeed in the small stuff, and He has layed out a perfect reading in this weeks mass for you.

    “In view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God…Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transfored by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is.- His good, pleasing, and perfect will.
    Romans 12:1-2

    Congrats and God Bless!

  37. Paulla

    Thank you for this post – such a tear jerker. I have had three surprise pregnancies… one when I was 20 and single – and my son has turned out to be such a neat young man who is now 21. I was surprised to be pregnant with my first daughter only 3 months after I got married, and surprised again to be pregnant with my second daughter only 3 months after her sister was born. All three of my surprises are now big kids and hard as it was then, I obviously wouldn’t change a thing.

    Hang in there, and God Bless.

  38. Anonymous

    This really helped. #1 is almost 15 months. Hubby is working-I am home-the house has sooo many needs- Hubby’s thesis isn’t done–my 15 month old demands lots of attention and my Pregnancy with her was rough – gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia- mild struggles with her health and mine after the C-section. Now i’m 5.5 weeks with #2 still nursing, cramping and spotting. A few months back I think my flow was actually a miscarriage. I love God and I am trying so hard not to worry and truly accept whatever happens. This may not be my timing, but I so want this baby.

  39. The Koala Bear Writer

    Powerful stories – thanks for sharing. Amazing how God works – so many of us were “surprises” to our parents. Frankly, I can kinda understand your worries, as right now I have one and am nowhere near ready to get pregnant with number two – so having three and being not ready for number four must be worse. Yet your faith is amazing and inspiring in the midst of this. God bless you – for being open, honest, faithful.

  40. Sarah

    Thank you, Jennifer, for your honesty. Also for the two beautiful stories of your parents and the high school couple. I was touched when I read it yesterday.

    Now, with the news of Bristol Palin’s pregnancy, I think, your post speaks to that as well.

    We need to work on God’s time.

  41. JTK

    congratulations, Jennifer! I’ll keep you and your family in my prayers

  42. Susan

    25 yrs ago I found I was pregnant with #3, unexpectedly, and #1 and 2 would be 3 and 2 on arrival date. I cried. I have wept every birthday since – for joy because who knew how much delight # 3, and eventually #4, would give me? God. And He gave anyway, in spite of my response due to limited sight. I am inspired by the words you write about your life…. thank you for sharing them. please take care …. i’ll be praying for you all

  43. Chaotic Joy

    Congratulations on your baby. Thank God for surprises indeed. Praying for all of your family and the adjustments to come.

  44. Lerin

    Congratulations… and thank you for the reminder that we are NOT all-knowing, that God is the author of our future.

  45. amy

    I have been reading your blog for a while now, and I always like what you have to say. I just found out that I’m expecting our 6th child (late March or early April), and I had the same feelings that you did. I ultimately know that God has had this child in His mind from the foundations of the world and that He has me and my family safely in His strong hands. I am so grateful that I have faith, and I feel such compassion for people who find themselves in scary places without a loving God to rely on. In this time especially, it is such a blessing to be open to life. Congratualtions to you and your family. Our fourth child (he’s 3) was huge for me in my conversion- and he is such an amazing little person. I thank God for him every day, as I know (and you know) you will as well.
    Amy Bonansinga
    Springfield, Illinois

  46. eileen

    Jen – I want to add my congratulations and prayers for an uneventful pregnancy. I printed out (from a blog I’m not sure where right now) these words from Pope Benedict from the first Mass of his pontificate: “Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.” God bless you and your family.

  47. katiel

    What amazing stories!!! I was just like susan (posted above) except my tears were only 4 years ago. #3 was unexpectedly due and I was devastated. However becoming pregnant with her made me realise that I needed help. I had denied for a couple of years that I had PND from my first baby. I knew that I had to get myself right for this new one. It took a while, but I can honestly say that by turning back to Him, acknowledging my emotional state, and getting help, I have been a good mother to her and the others. And funnily enough, she is the one that everyone comments on as being “so happy”. 🙂

  48. Mrs. Carrington

    Very glad to have found your blog. Congratulations on your pregnancy and thank you for sharing your struggles with such honesty.

  49. Laura

    Congratulations! I have to say that I like to hear Catholic Pro-Life women admit when they aren’t quite excited about their newest pregnancy. There have been a few times when it took me a while to get used to the idea of a new baby, however, I felt that it was wrong to admit that. As a Catholic mother who is open to life, I felt that it would go against what I stood for to admit that God’s timing and mine didn’t exactly match up and that I wasn’t yet bursting with joy at the news. I always got to that point, it just took longer at times than others. Thanks for being so honest.
    God Bless!

  50. BlapherMJ

    Anyone who knows me has heard me say at one time or another, “Everything happens for a reason.” I may not understand why something happens at “that very moment”, but, like you, I know that HE is always in control. Thanks for providing inspiration through your words.

  51. Maria

    Congratulations to you and your husband, Jennifer. You are beautiful example of trust in our Lord. I will be praying for your pregnancy daily.

  52. eally

    Congratulations for your new blessing from God. I had three children (a set of twins) by the time I was 20 years old. When I remarried at 28 I got pregnant immediately (not MY plan, but God’s plan…MY plan was to start nursing school 2 months after I got married) – but I praise God for all of that because right after I had my son at 28 years old I found out I can no longer have children anymore. I would have been devastated if I had waited until I had finished “living it up in my 20’s” and then tried to start having kids in my 30s because I wouldn’t have been able to.

    One of my twin daughters got pregnant at 15 yrs old. She got married to her boyfriend and they have been happily married for 5 years and have 2 children and expecting their 3rd in Dec. When she got pregnant with her first child and went to the doctor we found out she has pre-cancerous cells on her cervix. She has had to go to the doctor for the last 4 years every 6 months to keep a check on it and has had several treatments done. I praise God for her early pregnancy so this was discovered! God knows the big picture…He didn’t give you more than you can handle. Remember you can do all things through Christ who will give you strength! Philippians 4:13

  53. Nicole

    Congratulations! I have been away from the computer for a month due to surgery for endometriosis. I got back to your blog today and was so happy to see you are expecting. Interestingly I have been up at The Pope Paul the VI Institute in Omaha NE for the surgery. Dr. Hilgers takes the Pope’s teaching very serious, and using his profession as a doctor, uses it to help with women’s health issues. We struggled to find a doctor here in town that would respect our views and not put me on the birth control pill to manage the endometriosis. A month from surgery and things look good. We hope to be blessed with a child very soon. The NFP model that connected us with the institute was Creighton… such blessings with NFP. I look forward to hearing your stories with baby #4. Nicole

  54. belambrakis

    I was searching the internet for help on an unplanned pregnancy and found you, I too am facing an unplanned pregnancy and I have had a hard time dealing with it, even though I love God etc.. But we just have to realise that our plans are not his and his plans are much better than ours! I have 3 boys and I never wanted anymore they are such hard work! But I have always been a little sad at not ever having a girl, So maybe God decided to bless me with a daughter? If not a little boy would be loved! But it is just accepting this new path my life has suddenly taken!!!

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