The story behind the story matters... Don't miss it!

As I stood in a long line with a sleeping baby in a stroller and waited for my family to get off another exciting ride in Disneyland, my phone rang. I didn't recognize the number but everything inside of me said, "Answer it!"

With 50,000 of my closest friends scurrying about, time was about to stand still for me.

Before I tell you who was on the phone, let me first share the story of a young woman who was smart, talented, beautiful and deeply hurting.

On a beautiful April day this young twenty-two year old found herself in a raw vulnerable place. Her  world would change forever. The world she knew, the time she thought she'd still have and the hope of a better relationship came crashing down around her. She grew up as a 'military brat', which meant she was constantly moving and things were always changing. She adored her dad and was really close to him but because of his military obligations he was gone a lot. She felt loved and cared for by him but unfortunately the time her dad spent away from home put a huge strain on the relationship between her and her mom. The details of this young girls life are worthy of an entire book so I won't begin to unpack her story, just a small glimpse into this chapter.

On that life altering day, standing in her living room just a few steps away her mom took her last breath. As her mom passed from this life to the next, so did the hope of ever hearing "I'm proud of you" or even those treasured words "I love you". That chapter of her life came to a screeching halt and a new one would soon emerge.

You see this young woman was already a single mom raising a sweet little two year old boy. Understandably her dad was unavailable as he was reeling from the devastating loss of his wife. She wasn't a young woman who knew her worth nor did she understand how deeply loved, needed and valuable she truly was. As her family dealt with the loss of a wife and mom the best way they knew how, she too dealt with it in her own way.

Over the next couple of months what later would prove to be a destructive pattern with men began to unfold. The deep hurt she was walking through wasn't met with people who surrounded her, loved her and supported her as she found a new normal. It wasn't met with people who pointed her toward truth, nor was she embraced and told she had value. She was surviving the best way she knew how. Within a few months after her mom died she found out she was pregnant. This news was both exciting and terrifying.

Because of her choices she was left with a lot of unanswered questions.

"Who was the father?" "Would I raise this baby alone?" I have no doubt the questions were endless and the answers were few.

The story behind the story was messy and ugly...

As I stood next to my sleeping baby at Disneyland, I answered the phone. As soon as the person said who they were I immediately knew why they were calling. I'm thirty-five years old and from my earliest memory I've wondered who my father was.

You see, the young, beautiful and deeply hurting woman was my mom. The pain, hurt, fear and feeling of hopelessness lingered throughout my childhood. She searched for years in all the wrong places to find her value and desperately wanted someone to show her how loved she was. I grew up knowing that my mom was amazing but it was painfully obvious she didn't feel the same way.

Almost ten years ago I went through an incredibly emotional and painful DNA test in search of my father and I didn't feel prepared to walk through it again. I knew there were several possibilities and I wasn't sure I could handle the disappoint ever again.

Here's that story:

The voice on the other end said, "Nicole, I believe Jeff was your father... He died last week."

Gulp! I wish I could adequately describe the thoughts surging through my head or the angst in my heart but that too is for a different chapter of another book.

As I saw my kids exiting the ride, I quickly asked the sweet lady on the other end of the phone if their family would agree to a DNA test. Her reply was beyond generous as she stated, 'NO problem!'

I didn't say a word to anyone the rest of the day about the phone call I had just received. We were on vacation and our family has been dealt enough this year so I wanted to have this brief time of 'no worries'.

Over eighteen years ago my mom gave her life to the Lord and walked away from years and years of destructive behavior. I felt like she deserved a few more hours of not questioning her past.

I took the rest of that day to silently process the news I'd just received and later that night I asked Tim (my husband) to go on a drive with me.

We drove around Anaheim, CA talking, crying and processing as much as we could.  On our drive, I shared my heart with him. I felt a lot of guilt because since moving back to Reno last year, I knew Jeff (possible father) lived an hour away from me but as a family we'd faced quite a lot this year so I didn't want to add 'one more thing'. I didn't call him, I didn't share my family with him, I didn't show up and love him. I felt awful! I've never even seen a picture of the man who helped give me life and it's been something I've always longed for.

Tim listened to me, allowed me to cry and reminded me of my value.

I have always been very open with my kids about not knowing my dad, so a few days later I shared with them the news. I also talked with my mom and she knew we'd be doing another DNA test.

I told them that he lived close and explained why I didn't reach out over the past year to meet him. Kids have an uncanny ability to understand and love us through things we can't begin to comprehend ourselves.

You see, doing a DNA test comes with a lot of implications both positive and negative. For my mom I knew it could bring back the feelings of guilt and shame. For me it would mean I either finally knew who my dad was or the question would still linger. Either way, it could be like reopening an ugly wound.

His family did what they needed to do to submit their DNA and I did my part. I've been through this so I knew the wait flat out sucks!

A few weeks ago my phone notified me that I had an email waiting from GenQuest labs. I knew exactly what was in that email. The results were very clear. The results read much like they did the last time I took a DNA test...

"The probability of 'Jeff' being your father is less than 2%."

I sat looking at my email with a very different feeling this time around. I didn't feel crushed, devastated or even hopeless. Over this year the Lord has really been teaching me the value of the 'whole story'. I could look at this from my perspective or I could see it from the lens He sees it through. Yes, this has been painful and yes I have every right to be pissed and angry but what if I changed my lens and saw the story 36 years in the making.

I began to think about the young lady at the beginning of this story. How was she going to handle this news? I knew it was devastating for me eight years ago when I took my first DNA test but this time around... It had the potential to shake my mom to the core. I knew she felt so much shame from the way we were raised. I knew she had so much guilt from me not knowing my father but I also know that she was doing her best in the midst of a really messy situation.

She didn't have a mom that reminded her that she was valuable. She didn't have a mom that took drastic steps to change her life. She didn't have a mom who walked away from men, drugs and alcohol (cold turkey) to pursue the Lord. She didn't have a mom that forgave quickly, loved lavishly and served so unselfishly. I did!

I did! And because of her I know my worth.

For the past eighteen years I've watched her forgive herself, forgive others and heal from years of destructive behavior. She has taught me that you fight for people even when they abandon you, turn their back on you and look at you like trash.

My mom has messed up a lot but so have I! I've hurt people. I've let people down that were depending on me. I've said and done really stupid things.

If I want people to forgive me and love me (which I happen to need everyday)... I better be willing to do the same. Even when it hurts to the core of who I am, I better be willing to get messy.

You see friends, it is important to see the story behind the story. Often times it is deeper, uglier and not as beautifully knit together as we'd like to believe.

Again, I was reminded that my DNA does not match the person I thought it would, but I was created by a Father who grafts in the orphans, the fatherless and more importantly the imperfect.

At a time in my life where I've been trying to show my kids the importance of seeing the 'entire' story, to love people even when they hurt and disappoint you and to show up even when we'd rather hide away... I've been given this important reminder.

My DNA so far hasn't matched any one's but like an onion this story has so many layers. I have no doubt God is using it to reveal His unchanging love and unmatched forgiveness He daily showers upon us even when we don't deserve it.

I encourage you to see the whole person today. Not the small glimpse into a story or how a little portion of the story has personally made you feel BUT the whole story. Sometimes what you see today is deeply rooted and it isn't always about you.

There have been so many times that I've wanted to punish my mom for the choices she made...

...but if I'm really a person that believes I deserve grace and forgiveness... I better be willing to give it!

I encourage you to do the same! The grace and forgiveness you fail to give today may be the same grace and forgiveness you need tomorrow.


  1. You have once again given such wonderful insight with truth.

  2. I pondered this for a bit; plus, yesterday was pretty eventful. Here it is: Your very existence supports my belief that life is sacred, it has value, is God-ordained and is not random or accidental. You were formed in your mother's womb, perfectly and wonderfully made. I am so glad He created you to be YOU and give thanks for the gift of you and your sweet family. <3