When Matt and I first got married, we thought we would like to have two biological children and adopt the third one. But the young don’t yet know that life doesn’t always go according to plan, and a few years into our marriage we found ourselves with adoption as our only option to grow our family.

And I’d be lying if I said we were not disappointed. And broken. And scared. Nobody in our family had adopted before so we had no idea what we were getting into. But we grieved the disillusionment of having to abandon our original plan, dusted ourselves off, prayed fervently for wisdom and courage, and contacted adoption agencies to move forward.

As we processed our new reality, we realized we would be surrendering many of the expected things that come along with biological children: the excitement of the pregnancy announcement, the marvel of watching my body change as our baby grew inside, the creative gender reveal, the birth.  And it was a hard pill to swallow. 

When we decided to say yes to adoption, we also felt led to say yes to any baby who needed a home regardless of race or gender. So we were told from the start that our willingness would most likely result in us adopting a black or bi-racial child because the need was so great.

This meant that we would also be giving up something else we had not anticipated: that our baby would look like usBut after coming to terms with laying down all the other parts of our plan, I was fine with that.  

Or so I thought…until the moment I saw my new daughter for the first time.

I knew in my mind as we approached the meeting place that she would not look like what our biological child would but I didn’t realize just how little she would resemble the idea I had formed of our daughter.

From the moment I fell in love with Matt, as many new wives do, I began to dream about what our daughter would look like. The imaginary child would have warm green eyes like his, soft brown curls like mine, and caramel color complexion, a perfect mixture of both of ours.

But here was our real daughter, flesh, and blood, and she looked nothing like that.

She was beautiful. So, so beautiful. She was the color of cinnamon, with dark, sparkling eyes, tight curly hair, and full, perfect, heart-shaped lips. But she was so different…so other…so not what I had always pictured she would be.

And in that moment, I understood how unprepared I was for this reality. I had given up the pregnancy and all the came with it, but when I saw Isabel I realized I had not fully given up the child that had grown in my mind since we began to dream about children.  

I felt confused, and sad, and even…if I can be honest…irationally disappointed. 

Then, as I held her for the first time, as I looked into the face I would come to love more fiercely than I ever thought possible, this truth began to sink deep into my heart and to free me:

God’s plan for our lives doesn’t always look like what we think it will.

There is an old Yiddish proverb that says: “Man plans, and God laughs.” I always thought God’s laughter in this saying was one of derision as if He were laughing at this clueless creation of his who dares to plan when only He knows the future.

And looking back at the moment I met my baby girl, I think God did laugh. But it was a joyful laughter, a belly laughter of pure delight at what He had created. At this sacred moment where He brought together the lives of three people who desperately needed each other.

And I think if I could have heard his holy voice this is what I would have heard:

I know this is not what you planned. But trust me: it is so much better!

And it was.

Eleven years into this journey of parenthood I could not imagine anything more perfect. She is mine and I am hers. We look nothing like each other and nobody tells me she has my chin and her daddy’s eyes but we belong to each other heart and soul.  

Because of her, we also have a son. Because of her, my life has taken a path I never thought it would: I work from home, I homeschool, I’ve done oh so many things I said I would never do. 

Throughout my life, God has led me down some strange roads. Sometimes painful. Often scary. And I have not always gone along willingly. But every time I have surrendered my own plans and chosen to say “Yes” to his calling, to obey Jesus’ prompting and step out in faith, to trust him, and to follow his leading, He’s been faithful to provide results that blow my wildest dreams right out of the water.

Even if they look nothing like what I thought they would.