In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9.
Five years ago, I had a to write a 15-year career plan for a class assignment. We were asked to describe where we envisioned we would be in five years (short term) and 15 years (long term). I started off that assignment with Proverbs 16:9 (quoted above). It was a hard essay to write because I feel I've lived most of my life on the whim. But I'm glad I had to write it.
People have different ideas about writing a plan like this. For some, it is equivalent to boxing themselves in or setting themselves up for failure. But, for others, it gives them focus and direction, something to work toward. But as I learned through this assignment, a plan is more than writing resolutions. We were asked to write down a priority statements, so that even if we had no clue where we were going, we'd at least know what mattered most. In summary, I wrote down Jesus first, family second, employment (including community/volunteer efforts) third.
For the most part, I kept my priorities straight, but my expectations were so different back then. For example, I wrote:
"I have no illusions about parenthood. I know that it is a lifelong commitment and work."
I chuckled when I read that statement. What hadn't sunk in back then was that this commitment and work is 24/7! On the other hand, I had no idea how much I would love having children and how the birth of my son would change my life forever (that may clue you into why we now have three kids ages four and under).
I also had no idea how much time caring for children (and a home) can take, that I can't do everything I want, and that my creativity exceeds my availability (and pocket book, ha ha). I learned the value of organization and the cost of disorganization, and I didn't expect I'd always be so tired :-)
By the way, did blogs even exist five years ago?
Back then, I also had a wonderful set of friends and neighbors. So I went into parenthood with strong social support (which I noted in my essay). But by the time my son was 8 months old, all of them moved away. That's right. All of my closest friends and "mentors"moved away. Some moves were expected, but most were not anticipated at all. It was a difficult time, but God saw me through it and has been so faithful. We are still living in this transient community, so I have been through it again. It is still tough, especially because now I feel the need for that type of support when back then I really didn't need it as much. But, by the grace of God, I have come this far and I am still standing (though I'd rather be laying down sleeping, ha ha).
Most of all, I'm learning I have to stop comparing myself to others. Yes, I need to learn from others, but just because someone else is able to do more than I can it doesn't mean I am less of a woman. It means that I have to accept where I am in life. That doesn't mean I am not striving to do things better, it means that I have the liberty to enjoy life now, regardless of my circumstances. I am still learning this. Part of that is not taking myself so seriously.
The things I thought I'd be able to do in my community didn't come to fruition, but I'm not disappointed. I am at peace because I stayed focused on what matters most to me. I see how my expectations and circumstances were different. I also see how I was still "thinking in the box" and I now see opportunities with a different perspective.
This is how I finished my essay and I can truly say I still feel the same:
"It was not by chance that I have made it to where I am now, but it is also not by meticulously mapping out how I would like my life to be. I do have desires like everyone else, yet I have found that I don't need to rush to get there. There are times I have had to wait. I didn't want to, but I did. I do not regret waiting because I have learned so much during that time. I would not have the vision I have now if I had attended UNC five years ago. I am happy to be where I am -- most of all, I am happy to be following the leading of Jesus Christ -- the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). "
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6.