It’s my birthday.
Anyone else notice that some birthdays, for unnamed reasons, just feel huge? Like you’re suddenly immensely older even though you’re really not?
That’s me at thirty-five today.
“J,” I hear you saying right now. “Thirty-five is not old!”
I know, I know. I hear your words. I get your point. But for whatever reason, this birthday just feels significant.
One of the things that I’ve struggled with in recent years is a recurring thought at every birthday. A thought sometimes laced with anxiety, sometimes with concern, and lately with a healthy dose of reflection.
It started at my 31st birthday. I was separated, divorce papers filed, and living at my parents’ house with my one year old little Kiddo. My life as I had known it for years was basically over, and I was starting over again with less than nothing. That was most definitely not where I’d ever thought I’d be.
Every year since then the thought has come back on this day. It’s gotten a little less dazed and a lot more hopeful over the past four years. Now I’m sitting here reflecting on it once again.
I should explain. In order to say I’m not where I thought I’d be, I should probably tell you where I thought I’d be.
I am and always have been the girl with the plan. For every occasion and major life event, I had (okay… have) some sort of game plan for how to handle it. This is just how I’m built, I think. I can handle a crisis (by coming up with a quick plan… ha!) but I much prefer having my plan prepared.
So by the time I was approaching the end of high school, I had my whole life mapped out in my mind. I even wrote a paper about it for a scholarship. I was going to go to college, earn my bachelor of music education and meet “the one”. We’d get married and start a family as I took on a small band program and built it up to be solid. I’d volunteer at my church in some capacity, probably music. Life would go on in a constant cycle of birthdays, band competitions, anniversaries, and milestones. Nice, neat, and tidy… at least as much as life could be.
It was not in the plan for me to graduate college without being married yet.
It was not in the plan for me to go to grad school immediately because I couldn’t get a job when I graduated halfway through the school year.
It was not in the plan for me to work a year at a music retailer because I couldn’t find a band directing job after I graduated with a master degree in music.
It was not in the plan for me to accept an offer to be a percussion instructor AND choir director at a brand new school.
It was not in the plan for me to have fertility and pregnancy issues.
It was not in the plan for my marriage to struggle and eventually fail.
None of this was in my plan.
Funny how God is not all that concerned with those, huh?
One of my mom’s favorite quotes is “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” But I think I could take that a step further. When you’re trying to follow God, He is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.
Look at every person used in a major way by God in the Bible. Do you think any of them planned on their lives turning out the way they did?
Was the Ark in Noah’s plan?
Was leaving home to follow a vague promise in Abraham’s plan?
Was leading his people out of Egypt and through the wilderness in Moses’s plan?
Then one day… we look around… and we say “This is not where I thought I’d be.” There’s a bit of shock at the thought at first. But then we begin to look around… to look back. We see the winding path of our lives and how God has used us along the way. We see where we are, even when that particular place may be uncomfortable at the time.
I could easily go back and second guess my decisions… things I chose to do while earnestly trying to follow God that might have been mistakes. But I just have to have faith that my God is still God over my mistakes. And His plan over me will not be thwarted by my failings when I’m genuinely seeking Him day after day.
but I think I’ve ended up where I needed to be.”