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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Plans

Okay, so I started this post when I was at my friend Tabitha's house. She just had her most beautiful baby Jordan three weeks ago, and this is the first I've gotten to meet him awake (I came to the hospital after he was born, but he was asleep when I visited) and the first I got to hold him.

Baby Jordan!
While Tabitha was doing Mommy things she invited me to get online and I went on facebook and saw my friend Hannah had a new post up on her blog. After reading it I knew I had to post a blog post. So I started this post, but had to save it as a draft and come back to it some hours later when I was at home.
Hannah's post, which you can find for this day over at her blog, is about planning. I've mentioned Hannah before, but in case you don't know, her daughter, Sadie Mae, went to live with Jesus in January. She only lived a few minutes after birth. The doctor's prognosis of the pregnancy was fatal, but TJ and Hannah decided to bear and birth her anyway. Hannah's amazing journey of faith can be found on her blog. I am blessed and fortunate to count her as a friend.

Hannah and I (she's on the right), about to leave for senior prom.
So today, Hannah talked about life plans, and how we often plan and don't take God into account. Plans are something God has schooled me in. In fact, He's given me direct advice on it.

Wow, I really know that plans really are the theme of the day because I'm talking to Ryan on facebook chat in the other tab and he just brought up plans!

When I was in eighth grade, I was either visited by an angel or God's presence in a strong, different way I hadn't felt before and didn't feel again until I was in college. I think it may have been an angel because I remember feeling strongly 'do not be afraid' which is what Angels always say in the Bible, but I think it may just have been the Spirit of God stronger than normal because of when I felt the same feeling later in my life.

Regardless, it was a life changing experience. I honestly don't know how long it lasted. My memory is hazy, it was so remarkable, it may have been only twenty minutes, it may have been two weeks. Seriously, I just don't remember. I remember feeling I shouldn't be afraid, but I did feel afraid, and I was very disappointed in myself. For years I wonder if I had conquered my fear would it have been different? Was it some sort of test? Because I was afraid and God doesn't beget a spirit of fear, the question of whether it was good or not did get asked later, but I know it was good because I felt the exact same presence later when I am sure it was God. It was my own dependence on myself, and not on Him, which made me unable to conquer my fear at the time.

When the presence left I was left with an impression of 'The ideas you developed during your time with the Bible, they are correct. And do not make many plans, for I have a plan for you.'

That was crazy. At the time, I wanted to be a professional singer, like a pop or country star, and I thought 'well, that doesn't seem like something God would want for me, so I should probably abandon that.' And I did, and that was okay. But I didn't really know what else to do with that.

I'm telling you about my history with plans, not my whole life story, so I won't tell you all that happened in high school except that I got farther away from God when I was 16 and didn't get back to the level of relationship I had with Him in 8th grade until college, when I quickly surpassed it. So I didn't really consult him when I decided which college to go with, but I did keep the idea that he had a plan in mind when I thought about which to apply to and what to study.

I assumed my calling had something to do with like an official ministry or something. I didn't really know what, because I was iffy on women being pastors and plus I didn't really feel called to be like a preacher or priest, whatever you call it. But I thought education on the topic was probably a good idea, regardless of how his plan came about. So I only looked at schools that had Theology or Religion departments (I thought they were basically the same thing. They are NOT. :) ) And so when I got a full tuition scholarship to Converse, which has a Religion department, and I loved the atmosphere of the campus, I thought great.

And without a doubt, even though I didn't actually ask God 'Should I go?' there is no doubt it was exactly where I was meant to be. It was at Converse I met Lydia, who showed me you could fall in love with God. I knew you were supposed to love Him, and I did in a fashion, and I was definitely a Christian... but I wasn't in love with Him, didn't even know it was possible to feel your heart melt and explode simultaneously for the pure adoration you have for Jesus. But I am hopefully, utterly, immensely, eternally in love with HIM now! I also discovered the amazingness of fellowship and my faith grew exponentially. I had dozens of experiences...

Up until the end of freshman year though, even though I was following God closer, I still sort of just did what I thought was best. I 'leaned on my own understanding.' And my own understanding sucks. That's one major reason to not make plans, people.

The end of freshman year found me engaged and then pretty much abandoned by my fiance, which was a very good thing because I call that entire relationship 'my temporary insanity' and all the friends who knew me then laugh and agree. None of us know WHAT I was thinking. But during the time period between the two weeks of the engagement and when he stole from me and never saw me again three months later, it was all broken promises of seeing each other and stuff and it was difficult.

I'd started trying to read the Bible all the way through, and hadn't finished, but I dove into it. So I did it, in one summer, and read it all the way through, from Genesis to Revelation. It was amazing to read it in that order, you could see God's hand through history. By the time you get to Malachi, you feel the weight of the law and it's in your heart and you're comparing yourself to it and feeling so weighed down... and then Matthew comes and here comes Jesus and you're like 'yes! Hope!' and you feel the freedom of Christ in a new way. Then by the time you get to Paul and you're reading about love and unity and fruits of the Spirit and all that you're like 'YES! YES! YES!'

And on the very last night as I stayed up to finish, I got my next clue to God's plan for me. He told me I was called to help unify the Body of Christ!! I was overjoyed and happy and delighted... and had no clue how to start. But I was sure denominations were a barrier to unity, so I must have to help tear them down, which overwhelmed me.

Well, I could keep going on about the trial and error process that took me from one mistake to another, realize that the next spring I got the NEXT revelation. That God is SO much bigger than denominations and instead of tearing them down, he's going to soften hearts of those within denominations to see each other as family. (And he's given me the gift of seeing this over and over!) But see, my PLAN of tearing down denominations, which I was trying to figure out what I was going to do? Totally wrong. :) )

In the last few years, God has shown me that, at least for me, planning is just NOT advised. Note what God communicated to me in eighth grade "and do not make many plans". It does say 'many', not 'any'. Sometimes you can't avoid planning.

But, and this blog is actually a testimony for this, God has made it clear to me planning is not great for me. What do I mean? Well, when I try to plan, the plans almost always fail! If I plan on hanging out with a friend? Doesn't happen! (Such as with Hannah on Sunday!) If I make a huge life plan? Doesn't happen! I've blogged about this phenomena in my life before.

For example, I really thought I'd be married and have at least one kid by twenty-five. Guess what? I'm twenty-five! None of that has happened!

And I've been engaged three times. Yep, that's right, three times. Once when I was sixteen, the time I told you about earlier, and of course with Eric. Insane. Obviously, none of them ended in marriage.

And when I went to Converse I thought I'd double major in Religion and French. And I'd graduate with honors. Yeah, well, it became clear to me quickly that I really wasn't that good at French. I'd been good in high school mainly because I had an impeccable accent, not because I had any real linguistic talent. And God made it clear rather fast that he didn't want me to major in Religion.

I really hoped when I graduated college that I'd get a job (didn't really care in what, so long as I didn't hate it) and my own place (if not right away, in at least six months) and that'd be great.

That didn't happen.

It took me three months to find a job after graduation, and when I did it was a low paying, inconsistent, unreliable job. I liked it okay at first, but then I grew restless and wondered if I should be there. But it was a project to project commitment job, meaning every month or so the job would stop for at least a few weeks, then resume with a new project and you'd be asked back. I realized when I'd said I'd come back the last time, I'd not asked God (He'd made it clear I was supposed to be there the other times, so I just assumed). But I felt spiritually restless. But God wants us to keep our word and I'd committed to the end of the study. So even though I felt a call to leave, I was locked in. Then, on my birthday, I was laid off! And I knew it was a birthday present from God!

See, God acts in mysterious ways. I know you know that.

Now, there is a place for preparing and for dreaming.

God is like an architect. And we work for Him. He lets us help build the house he's designed, but we don't get to design it. So when we plan, we're messing with His design. But preparation is trying to be a good worker. It's lining up your nails and hammers and stuff. Maybe he'll send you to plumb and you won't need it, but it doesn't hurt and if he does ask you to do some nailing, He'll be pleased with you for your preparation.

And dreaming... that's sort of like saying 'Hey, God, I'd really like to work on the kitchen! I can't stop thinking about how awesome it's going to be! Can I?' And He may say yes. He may say no. But knowing God, He'll usually say 'Well, there's going to be some surprises, but it will be awesome!!!'

And God LOVES to surprise us. That's one reason He's not too fond of people planning: if we've got it all mapped out, where's the surprise in that?

Also, He only wants us to prepare a little. Because He wants us to rely on Him. We need to cling to Him and know our footing is uneven without His guidance. This reliance on Him is essential for our well being. Independence is nonsense in the eyes of God. We're utterly, totally dependent on Him... and it's beautiful.

Also, I want to be clear: this is a lesson God's made clear in my life. I feel very strongly about it. But I'm not sure if it's universal.

All too often people feel very strongly God is telling or calling them to do something, and they go out and they say 'God wants us all to do this!' But sometimes that's just not true. That's actually a major cause of division. So don't mistake me for saying God's told you not to plan. Or even that He's told me 'NEVER' because He hasn't. He's just told me to do it sparingly and makes most attempts to do it unfruitful.

But it's okay. It shows me God's got His hands at work in my life, and while sometimes frustrating (I get so amazed when people talk about how God has let them plan months, even years in advance. For me, He rarely lets me plans weeks in advance, and sometimes not even days!) it is an intimate friendship, and I am thankful for it.

And you have to remember why. Sometimes I'll be snuggling Sophie and I'll remember she's going to die someday. She's my beloved, God-given gift of a dog, and I've lost so many pets in my life, I know they're very mortal. And my heart starts hurting and aching and sometimes tears come into my eyes. But then I have to snap out of it. Who knows what tomorrow brings? Why mourn her while she's still here?

And sometimes plans are like that. They set our eyes on some event in the future so strongly that the present gets dimmed. And God always has a purpose for the present. Sometimes you just have to set the entire concept of tomorrow to the side and just dwell in the moment.

I think that's why He's vague about what happens after we die. He totally knows. But while He tells us to store up treasures, He doesn't tell us what they are. He's preparing a room or mansion (depending on translation) for us... but what does that even mean? It says no eyes have seen the wonders awaiting us...

With His vagueness He gives us license to dream and dream. He's ordering us to prepare for that life (store up treasures, be ready for His return, etc.) But He's NOT given us anything to plan.

He's got the plans covered. We just have to learn to listen and live, joyously, in the freedom of dependence. Planning is NOT on your shoulders. Let Him lead. It's awesome. It's not always happy, but it's always joyous.

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