This Was Not the Plan

My life in many ways looks exactly like I hoped it never would. I had a different plan in mind. I was going to be important. I was going to do big things for God. Early on, I had my eyes set on full-time ministry— serving overseas as a missionary and turning the world upside down for Jesus.

Only it wasn’t really for Jesus. It was for me and Jesus was just my ride to impact and fulfillment. I remember very clearly in college, when trying to decide if I should marry Darren, saying, “I wasn’t just going to end up sitting in a pew somewhere.” My motivation wasn’t all bad. What I meant was I didn’t want to be complacent, apathetic, or uninvolved in what God wanted to do in the world. I didn’t want to show up to church on Sunday, do nothing but take, and head back into another week on Monday completely unchanged. That’s all good.

The problem was I viewed anything other than full-time, frontline ministry as inferior. I didn’t understand depth, foundations, roots, or the long road we must sometimes take to grow into a person God can actually use. I didn’t understand patience or humility or self-control. I saw the world through a very self-centered lens where ultimately, I and not God, was at the center of my story. All the things I wanted to do “for God,” were really for me and my own pride.dsc_1313When it became clear I wasn’t going to be in the ministry as I had hoped, I consoled myself in believing I would still do big things if I could just find the right job. I had a degree in counseling and thought I knew quite a lot about helping other people with their big problems at the ripe age of 22.

Once Darren and I settled in Massachusetts, I started applying everywhere for work as a counselor. I started with the glitzy positions and slowly lowered my expectations as I waited for call-backs and interviews that never came.

My first job was working in retail at the mall. I hated exactly every minute of it. I hate sales. I hate being sold to and hate even more trying to sale to others. I didn’t want to tell people what I did; when I had to, I was quick to point out that I was the Assistant Manager and not just a sales girl—it was all the same in the end.

Eventually, I quite that job. If there was one thing worse than sales, it was explaining to people that I had no job at all. I lived in a tiny apartment and had no kids so there was no explanation as to why I would be unemployed. Meanwhile, Darren was rising in his career, having started at an aerospace company and quickly being promoted. I felt like a dud. All my big plans and preparation had come to naught. IMG_20171217_132251_180.jpgAfter a couple more dead-end jobs on my end, Darren started at a new company and got me a position as well. I liked telling people I worked in aerospace; it made me sound smart and successful. Truth be told, I was sitting at a desk filling out routine paperwork and running to the office supply store to keep things stocked. Glamorous it was not.

We had been married five years now and five years had equally passed since I walked that stage, diploma in hand, ready to change the world. But I wasn’t discouraged because I knew my “highest calling” was just around the bend.

Though I had no deep maternal desires for a baby, we decided it was time to start trying for a family. I believed having a baby would at last give me that sense of purpose and fulfillment I was longing for. I wouldn’t have said those words to you at the time but looking back I realize that’s how I felt.

So we had a baby. I left that job I liked telling people about and stayed home to raise a family…and got knocked right on my butt as you might imagine. That first year of motherhood was hard for a lot of reasons but my expectations about finally finding “my thing” and feeling important certainly didn’t help.

We have another baby now and I no longer hold onto any glowing ideals of motherhood. Raising children is the hardest, most humbling thing I’ve ever done. My son is not good at making me look good at all. He’s the kind of kid people stare at in the grocery store and I’m the exhausted, stressed-out kind of mom I used to judge.

No, this is not how I saw my life. I didn’t plan for the days being so long or the nights so short. I didn’t prepare for the dishes or the diapers or the epic temper tantrums. I sit in that pew on Sunday, if I’m lucky, but just as often I’m home with a sick little one or working in nursery. For the girl who said she’d never warm a pew, there are few things now that seem like a greater privilege or luxury on a Sunday morning. IMG_20171217_132251_179.jpgMotherhood is not what I thought it would be. My life is not what I thought it would be. And I’ve been grappling with God about these very things of late.

Why, God? Why did I go to college if you knew I’d never use my degree? Why did you once move me to do big things for you only to tuck me away in a dusty corner of life? Why did you give me this burning desire to write if my words will never be read? Why give me a love for creativity if you never intended to use me in that way?

My frustration is only magnified by watching the world around me. I might comfort myself by saying, “Well, it’s just a season; things will be different when I’m not so busy with little ones.” But I see plenty of moms with littles, a hundred times busier than I am, already doing all those big things I once dreamt of.

I feel with God that I’m up against a wall. I try to take a step forward and he pushes me back two. I try to use the giftings he’s given me only to see my efforts fall flat. I want to quit. I want to tell God, “Fine. If you don’t want to use me then I won’t be used. I’ll stay out of your way. I’ll do the grunt work and forget about anything of substance.”

I’ve prayed these hard prayers to God lately and asked him to show me what he wants. I keep thinking he doesn’t hear me and he’s not going to answer but twice now in the last two weeks of these prayers, he’s surprised me.

First, I was reading through Lamentations and just when I thought the story couldn’t be any more heartbreaking or bleak, God gives a glimmer of hope in chapter three:

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Lamentations 3:21-27 (NIV)

I have quoted and rehearsed that one line to myself many times over the last year, “His mercies are new every morning.” But I had never read or understood them in their proper context until last week—which is exactly when I needed that understanding the most.

Again today, I was doubting God and his work in me. Maybe he doesn’t like me. Maybe I’m an extra he doesn’t really need. I ate my lunch with one hand and spooned baby food into my daughter’s mouth with the other. I decided to listen to a podcast featuring one of my favorite Christian authors, Ruth Chou Simons. Her words caught me off-guard and once again reminded me that God does, in fact, see and hear me when I question him.

You can listen to the podcast yourself by clicking on the link above, and I really hope you will, but her story and words were exactly the reminder I needed today that though I feel silent and invisible, I’m actually right where I need to be.

What I’m learning is this: I may or may not ever get to do “big things” for God. It doesn’t really matter either way. What matters is that I be faithful. Right here, today, with my children, in that church pew I never wanted to sit in—this is where God’s asking me to grow deep roots and wait quietly for him. The point is not what I accomplish for God but how well I get to know and how deeply I love God and people along the way.

Yes, I’d like to be good at something. I’d like to be useful and successful. But before I can really be anything, I must be God’s. I must be humbled, submitted, and deeply rooted. I’m learning to be faithful when I see no growth or blossoms, when I see only another long day, week, or year ahead of me that looks so very much the same.

I get tired and discouraged. I struggle to see the point. But I sense God asking me to hold on. To believe in what I can’t see, because that’s the essence of faith after all—until our faith is sight.

I needed Ruth’s words today. And most of all, I needed to be reminded yet again, that God hears my most honest prayers and loves me through them. I choose to believe God will complete the work he’s begun in me and that’s really all I can offer here today.

24 thoughts on “This Was Not the Plan

  1. Pingback: It’s Supposed to Be Hard | Outside Air

  2. So, so true! You spoke what most of us women feel at some point in our lives–torn. Called. But where? Needed. By whom? Desire. To do what? Blah. And more blah seems to be the answer.

    I’m in a season of blah myself. Unsure where God wants me. What He wants me to do. And why even bother at all.

    But every day I try. Try to listen. Try to do. Try to follow.

    That’s all I can do.

    Thanks for sharing your heart. So needed in this world…

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    • Blah is right. But if I’m honest, I know I’m learning and changing so much in the hard middle when I have to wait and stay faithful to the work before me. Thanks for the comment—such an encouragement knowing I’m not alone in the frustration.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Open honesty is such a beautiful gift – A Witch Awakens

  4. Dear Kari, Your great blessing right now is your honesty, as a number of readers have mentioned. You speak of a hard experience, and of frustration. If my words seem harsh or unsympathetic, forgive me. For honesty sometimes sounds harsh, and in truth, I am sympathetic and speak to you with love. Whatever we do in this life, there’s feedback. Even when we do nothing there’s feedback. When we do good, we feel good afterwards… not for a few seconds, but for a while. When we don’t feel good, that’s usually an indication that we’re not doing something right. Most people don’t get what they planned for or hoped for in this life, and even those who do get the best part, have to face a lot of details in the package that they didn’t expect, and it’s humbling. Nothing is as enlightening and as joyful as doing the work you love. And when we find ourselves burdened with drudgery, the path to happiness is learning to love what we have to do. You have two healthy children. That in itself is a gift from god. They’re new to this world. They don’t always understand what is going on. Your face, your mood, is the face of this world to them; a hug from you, a smile, the hum of a song is what gives them security… they learn the very basis of living from your happiness or unhappiness. If your house is cleaned and ordered, if your children are well fed and calm, your home can become a church of god both for those who live within and visitors. Don’t wait for months or years for something better to happen. You can turn this very day into something much better. If you grab even an hour a day for continued study, meditation and prayer, your spirits will be strengthened. There are many conventions these days that are misleading. One shouldn’t go to college for the degree. And the degree itself doesn’t promise anything. Going to college is an opportunity to learn about the sources of knowledge; to learn just how to learn. I have the feeling that you have it in you to bring such happiness to your home that others too will be drawn to you, and their presence will enrich you, even if they will at times bring you more work. May this be a Sunday of revelation, and may your week ahead be full of blessings.

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    • Thank you, Shimon, for taking the time to write me. I don’t find your words harsh but appreciate your wisdom and different perspective. What you said about motherhood especially, resonated with me. The way you said that I am my children’s face to the world and that my home can be a church of God… I have thought over these words many times since you shared them.
      I am thankful for my family and the life we’re building even if it’s not what I planned for and there are certainly bumps along the way.
      Thank you again for your words here.

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  5. Great contemplation about your walk with Christ. Funny but I have done what many Christians would call “great”. I’m hardly famous but everything I’ve ever attempted I’ve done, Be it ministry, mother (by the total grace of God!), career, and now a grandmother. Many would call me accomplished. And I am very blessed. But in this season of my life I now feel a bit lost. A major job change nearly a year ago reduced my work hours (another great opportunity). But with the extra time I’m feeling a need to fill it with “something”, that gnawing feeling that I must fill these new minutes with something grand. And it’s truly ridiculous! But I’ve studied the Word more deeply, delving into the history and timelines, maps, etc, of the Bible; sat for hours on the front porch and now inside, sipping coffee and birdwatching; been available for my kids and grands, doing more impromptu family dinners than ever, much more homemaking rather than running out the door to my great job or great ministry. Zechariah says, “for who has despised the days of small things?” No moment doing what you’re doing is small. The season of child raising is so short. And western culture prods us to think in such a warped manner. Those humbling years of raising babies are actually the best. And you will see that. And changing the world really happens one person at a time; those day in and day out relationships at church, your neighborhood, and extended family are where you grind together side by side, as iron sharpens iron. And besides, too many pews in America are empty. The church is glad you’re filling one.

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    • God is teaching me exactly what you’re saying…not to rush through these hard little years for the next best thing because every season has it’s own heartaches and joys and it’s best to be present and grow right where I an today. Thank you for your timely encouragement ❤

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  6. Thank you for sharing this! I have to believe God led me to this post because I’ve been struggling with these same type of feelings. I feel so inadequate and just don’t understand what my purpose in life is. I needed to read your words. Thanks for the encouragement. God bless!

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  7. Thank you for sharing this with such honesty! I think there are many people, women and men, who find themselves struggling. We were all raises to believe that doing great things meant doing great things in front of engaged masses. I am starting to see that doing great things in the lives of people I know is probably more impactful. Be well!

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    • It’s hard with the way the world operates around social media, platforms, followers etc to keep a right perspective on what it actually looks like to minister and be used. I’m trying to keep this in mind and let God use me as he will and not just how I think he should. Thanks for the comment ☺

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Love the post! So many times I have been encouraged by Jesus’ teaching to keep seeking and Keep knocking. I believe all of your experiences will be used at some point. Maybe not together or all at once, but you are finding more and more who you are, who you aren’t, and why you are here. Excited for you to keep growing!

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  9. You may not see your words being read, but I eagerly look forward to them. When I first read your blog I sat with tears in my eyes and I yearning in my heart. Here you were, this young woman who had such a strong command of language that you spoke truth into my soul. I was in awe, and I confess envious. For, I too, have felt this exact thing.. Often and for a long time. I have felt that I was called to minister to women, to write books to minister, to speak to groups and minister, to pray and teach prayer. I am about to turn 63 and no books have been published. I have had one short story published, but that was years ago. I have taught Bible study and am preparing to teach again soon, but, it is not what I had envisioned so many years ago. I sometimes think that how we view success in the Lord, is not how our Lord views us. We are called to love Him, serve Him, be His. He grooms us, leads us and directs us. You are ministering. You minister to me on a regular basis. But, as I have learned in my 63 years, the things you experience, the lessons that are hard to survive, these are what make you prepared to minister. These things are our arsenal. You will use your degree, and you will minister to others. And this season, this is a season of preparation, of growth, of understanding. I am so proud to know you. I remember the first time you answered a comment of mine. I excitedly told my hubby I heard from you. I felt honored. Again, I am blessed. Thank you. Sorry for the long reply… Cathi

    Liked by 2 people

  10. We’re at (hopefully) the end of what feels like a lost year and a half. We moved out of the “perfect” place to help with a ministry that we ended up not being able to be a part of. But we couldn’t quite move back yet, so it felt like we just floundered for months and months. We’re making plans now to move back, but it feels like a huge failure, leaving and coming back empty handed. I needed what you wrote. Thanks!

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    • I had no idea you guys were going through us. Even though it feels like you’re coming back empty handed, I’m sure there are lessons and growth that have happened in your hearts along the way…but it’s definitely not a fun, easy way to grow! Lifting you up as you move forward ❤

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  11. Wow, this is a brutally honest post! And that’s a good thing because I can promise you there are MANY other Christian women struggling with the same thoughts and issues. I have had to keep reminding myself over and over again through the many phases of life that God.does.have.a.plan. I may not see it or understand that plan but it is there. And because it’s there and because He always knows what is best I will trust Him. Thanks for the honesty of your post today.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I wrote this when my thoughts were quite raw and almost didn’t share it because it’s so honest and I didn’t want to be misunderstand. I’m planning on writing a follow-up post to better explain myself but for now I’m thankful to see these words connect with others and I’ve been so challenged and encouraged by everyone’s comments ❤

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