I am standing, bare foot on tile, staring at my reflection. The florescent light illuminating blue highlights across my face while I hear their hum surround the background. I see myself. The self that has under gone so many changes, so many purifying chisels upon the self that once was: hidden behind fear, behind uncertainty, behind doubt. The girl I see in the mirror is only the cover of a soul. A smile, formed by years of braces as well as fond memories. Eyes, corrected by glasses and those who helped open them.

The mirror becomes a looking glass, in which I see my life, replaying its events before my eyes. Memory by memory, revealing another part of me. Does this girl, this body, truly express my story? Would I look the same had my experiences been changed? Would I be the Bethany that is me?

 

The conversation lulls as I sit in the bed of his truck, swallowed by the embrace of his hug. Our breaths harmonize as we hear the waves dance across the Great Lakes. I think back on the months before. The long distance calls, the love expressed through chat boxes, text messages and pictures from a thousand miles away.  I realize, never has someone known me so well. Never has a touch felt so sweet. Never have I experienced the complement of two humans quite like this: so comfortable it challenges them to be their best for the other.

The full face of the moon blocks out the brilliance of the stars and spotlights the dancers on the water. A gust of wind brushes my hair as we shiver in unison and he instinctively holds me tighter. I study the shadows that fall on his pink grad hoodie that matches mine, the folds in the fabric that showcase his outward strength. I look up at him. His sapphire eyes disappear behind his enormous smile that gives me a glimpse at his inward strength, which is far more abundant. He leans in and presses his lips against my own. A surge of warmth fills me as I am transported back to the first time, when we lived in the endless adventure of the English countryside. Time was still with isolation from what we knew to be the “real world.” Our friendship was still at its foundation, and every conversation laid a new brick. We dreamt of continuing life together. Only now, I can’t imagine an alternative.

What if our paths hadn’t crossed? What if one opportunity wouldn’t have been taken for the other?

 

The uncertainty felt a lot like the Alaskan winter sky. Constantly dark with brief glimpses of hope as the sun just barely peaked over the horizon. My high school career was finally finished, and I had taken her advice. I was going to hop on a plane and fly to a new country, a new experience with likeminded people. Or so that’s what she insisted it would be. Everyone kept asking if I was ready, in which I would automatically reply, “of course.” Although, I had no idea what I was doing. As I floated across the stage, diploma in hand, I was anxious to throw my hat amongst the snowstorm of balloons that would fall at any minute. This was the beginning of a new season. I was pretending that my excitement outweighed my anxiety, but in reality it was quite the opposite. I had moved what seemed like a billion times before, but this was different. This was a change I was going at alone. This was entirely my own decision and I would be responsible for the consequences from here on out.

The months that seemed to drag on were coming to a close, the British Airway’s logo was finally in focus after the long walk through the tunnel. The engine roared, interrupting my whisper of a prayer. I held my breath while my icy hands began to thaw as I let go of my fear.

My feet hit the ground, just as the plane had, on a new road. I don’t know where it will lead, or who will take it with me. The only thing I know as this exact moment, the moment I set eyes on this castle of a home, is that God has taken my hand. He is not letting go, no matter how far we wander; and He has all sorts of things to show me along the way.

What if this choice wasn’t made? What if the moment before hadn’t prepared me for this?

The bare, white walls echo our noise. Another new home, another new adventure. Once again, we have up and left everything we were finally comfortable with. The moving van would be coming in a week, but we have gotten used to the emptiness by now. The contents of our suitcases were spilled across the floor and our sleeping bags were ruffled from long nights of mental exploration and mock discussions, dreams of what might happen in these next few years. A sibling runs into my room, rolling in the wide open space, hoping I will chase him. We tumble down the carpeted stairs to find a familiar face dressed in camo. I steal his hat and he steals his boots. We are dizzied by our father’s happy hug as we laugh, too preoccupied with play to ask about his day. The voice of our mother call us to the dinner table, a make shift assortment of plastic tubs and camping chairs. She hands each of us a flimsy paper plate, dipping from the oil of peperoni pizza, careful to make sure we take it with both hands. Without being told, we bow our heads, all adding our piece to the prayer. But my brother says what we’re all thinking, “Jesus, thank you for our crazy family.”

I have a Disney channel perspective walking into this classroom. I like the idea of being the new girl, and I treat it as a starter for every conversation. But as I notice the friendships that were already formed, jealousy lingers behind my eyes. All I want is to fit in, just as I do with my family. I grow tired of having to explain myself all the time. But I must be patient. I know how it works. I wait for the molasses to fall out of its container, seeing the sweetness that’s about to plop onto the plate. It’s a long, sticky process. I hunger for what I’ve already tasted, although I never know if this time it will taste even sweeter. And it often does the longer I wait.

What if we were somewhere else? What if we had stayed?

 

My chipmunk cheeks left sticky imprints on the toddler-sized window of my daycare as I impatiently awaited my mother’s arrival. I run into her arms as if it had been decades since she last held me. She armors me to fight the October chill as we make our way to the harvest party. That night I was Miss Hyper-Pants, an imaginary hero that was brought to life with roller-skates and a sequined cape. I barely notice my mother holding his hand as we turn the corners of the corn maze. They fit together. It feels so normal. I can’t seem to remember a time without him, although I know, somehow, that he filled the void of another. My heart has already adopted him as “Daddy Tim.” The man who may not have been dressed like a hero, but one none the less.

What if he hadn’t come? What if we were left alone?

 

My meaty, baby thighs work their hardest to stand. I glue my dimpled fingers to the dresser mirror. My feet wobble, as if standing on unstable ground, and my diaper cushions my fall. I point to my features reflected in the glass. Eyes that gaze in awe of the colors around her, innocent and curious as to the life she will have. A smile that continues despite her surroundings, joyous in knowing she is loved. I see myself. The self that, nearly two decades later, will be standing, once again, in front of a mirror. A girl who will have been formed, sculpted and defined by her Creator: the God who has always known her and who she would be.

 

Now, as I stand in wonder of this reflection, I find Him staring back. A loving author who has written each memory with a purpose. He brought someone to complete our family and bring about a lifestyle so completely different than before. A lifestyle that came with newness and excitement, but constant uncertainty. Uncertainty that would flow into decisions that only gave me more. But all the while, He was taking care of me as I made them. He brought me someone who showed me how to love, and to love every adventure that comes with it.

He didn’t explain it all beforehand, or comment on how He’d prefer to see it done. He let me watch and act, scene by scene, playing my part as He played his.

What ifs don’t seem to matter anymore. I am completely at the liberty of this Artist: the One who creates all things for good. With each puzzle piece, He is revealing more of my picture; and I find freedom in the each surprise, even those not evident in the mirror.

Published by Bethany B.