I thought I learned this lesson years ago. When I was 20, every plan I had for my future fell apart. I changed my major. My relationship ended. Due to overcrowding at college, the housing office separated me from the girls I planned to live with during sophomore year. I was blindsided by all of the change. I’d imagined my life looking very differently than it did. And it was hard to swallow.
Very little of what happened around that time in my life was what I wanted. But what I couldn’t have predicted in the midst of my discontent, were the incredible things that would happen in my life only because things didn’t go my way.
I thought my life would look a lot differently than it does today. Every year, I have ideas in my head about what the upcoming year will hold. Then the curve balls fly in, people get sick and get well (or don’t get well), friendships fade and strengthen, new people walk in and out of your life, jobs come and go, finances stretch and well…keep stretching, our bodies age, our faces change, the clothes we bought just one year prior don’t fit or they go out of style, and we make adjustments to the meticulous blueprint we’ve drawn for our lives. Guess it’ll look a little different than we imagined. Every. Single. Year.
God’s funny (I think?) like that. The one verse everyone writes in high school graduation cards is Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future.” You hear it so much it becomes white noise. It’s like an oscillating fan in the background of life. The promise of those God-picked plans is a constant whirring whisper in our ear, so constant, that we forget it’s there. Our little what-if dreams and the excitement of what could be (but may not be) steal our attention away from what’s already been decided. There are plans. There’s a blueprint. It’s the best possible design. And when we start to color outside the lines, God will always redesign for us, add something on, reroute the course as we build our life. As long as we invite him to participate, that is.
I lost a really well-paying job two years ago. I freaked out about the free time that comes with being unemployed and I decided to get my real estate license. I put all of my severance money into paying for those classes. Passing the real estate exam was something I never imagined I’d ever be able to do. I felt God pushing me toward practicing real estate but I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do it. I never did well in math and science at school. I shed many tears over my real estate textbooks, feeling dumb, embarrassed and defeated. So when I passed, I gained an incredible rush of confidence in myself and my intelligence. It was such an important moment for me. I never practiced real estate. But I’m convinced God only used that time to remind me that I can do hard things. He was pushing me into an experience that looked very different than I thought it would. And because I took a step into the unknown, it was just what I needed.
Almost immediately after passing the real estate exam, I was hired at Eagle Brook Church. I had dreamed of working there for years, so I was over-the-moon ecstatic. Here’s honesty: I never asked what I’d be getting paid. I just accepted the job. Because no matter what I was getting paid, I knew I wanted to work at Eagle Brook because I love their mission. To this day, I’m not entirely sure what I make at my job. I know what my monthly pay is and I’ve never calculated my net vs. gross–I just don’t care. I’d make do with what I was given and trust God with the details. A few months into working at Eagle Brook, I started to feel like maybe I couldn’t afford my townhouse anymore. I definitely could pay for it, but money was extremely tight. The real estate market looked good, so I decided to put it up for sale. It was a big risk. I had only lived there for two years and never thought I’d be selling it that soon. But my house sold after one week of being on the market. And I made a profit. I got to put some of what I learned in my real estate classes to use and I was able to pay down some college debt with the money I made. Once again, I was living in a future that looked nothing like I thought it would. But good things were all around.
I never saw myself moving back in with my parents at 28. I certainly never saw myself living with my parents until I was 30. Living with them was supposed to last for 3-4 months tops. I was going to take part of what I made from the sale of my home and buy a new one. Be an investor. A real impressive modern lady with investment skills. I saw myself maybe buying a rental property down the line. God said, “Nope.” I started to feel strongly pushed toward paying down debt and living with my parents for longer than I’d initially planned. It wasn’t what I wanted. But it was a gift to be there for as long as I have been. And good things are coming, because in my old age (hah!) I’m becoming more open to the future looking a lot different than I planned…
So on Nov. 29, I’m moving in with two girls from church. We signed a lease on a house in Northeast Minneapolis. Friends. A year ago, I never thought I’d be open to having roommates again. But the right person asked me if I’d be open to living together and my heart changed. Three years ago, I never thought I’d rent again. I can’t explain why exactly, but at some point this year I stopped caring so much about buying and investing. Nine months ago, I was so serious about moving to NYC that it terrified me and I only told a few people that it was in my plans. Then a few months ago, suddenly God knocked Manhattan off the pedestal where I worshiped her. (I still love her! But I’m not called to live there. It’s very clear to me now.) Five years ago, I never wanted to live in the city with a dog. Now Louis is 6 and I’m so excited about taking him for walks on streets lined with cute old houses and parkway trees. A year ago, my friend group started to shift and evolve. It scared me and I was lonely for awhile. But I can’t tell you how overjoyed I am about the special blend of incredible people that are in my life right now. Dare I say, it’s the best crew ever?
As the years have rolled by, even as the days go by, God keeps wiping away my crazy crayon marks all over his blueprint and redirecting my path into better places. Better places than I could ever dream up. I’ll probably keep dreaming about the future. But I hope I’m getting better at believing that no matter what it looks like when I get there–it’s gonna be good.