The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9
I don’t like surprises. I like to have my ducks in a row and know what’s around the bend.
So, by age five, I had fully established my life plan.
I knew that when I graduated from high-school at age seventeen, I would marry the first guy who expressed interest in me, and together, we would have twenty-one children, including two sets of twins. So in love was I with the notion of being a stay-at-home wife and mother, that I would often find myself in a daydream of pregnancies, baby names, housekeeping thrills, and homeschooling successes. With a starry-eyed sigh, I would return to reality, confident that God would grant me my request in my timing, no doubt about it.
My dreams, though perhaps a bit unrealistic and romanticized, were born out of a genuine desire to enjoy God’s good gifts and devote my life to the blessed task of raising a large family. I wanted nothing else.
To my dismay, high-school graduation came and went with no marriage prospects in sight. So I set a new goal: college graduation. Surely, I would graduate from college and marry the man of my dreams and we would live happily ever after.
But a life-altering experience in college proved to awaken my soul to the mysterious and perplexing ways of God.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9
From the age of five, I began to develop a deep love for music. I started spending much time at the piano, and the instrument became incredibly precious to me. My non-emotional, introverted self experienced untold glories there, and the piano became my life.
I continued my studies and advanced in my skills, and through the kindness of generous friends, God graciously gifted me the privilege of pursuing an undergraduate degree and studying with a world-renowned teacher. My natural talent, training, and experience soon brought me to the place where, in the world’s eyes, I had much opportunity before me. I’ll never forget the conversation with my teacher in which he stated, “You can study at any conservatory in the world,” and to which I replied, “I want to be a wife and mother and use my musical skills to serve the church and to worship the Lord.” To my astonishment, he encouraged me in my decision.
But would that dream be fulfilled? No. I graduated college with a permanent injury around the corner that would leave me questioning everything.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:9a
One semester into my undergraduate piano studies, I experienced a season of mild arm pain that terrified me. Seven years later, it returned with intensity, leaving me debilitated and effectively changing the course of my life. I could no longer play the piano, and the best doctors in the area had no answers.
What was I to do now?
Everything I had planned for, dreamed of, and hoped in was gone. I had to quit my job, give up one of my greatest earthly joys, and live in constant physical pain. My life had been turned completely upside down, and I was lost.
So I did the only thing I knew to do.
Though every dream in my life had been broken and shattered, one thing was certain. My life was in the hands of God, and he would never fail me.
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9b
The next days, months, and years of my life were some of the most difficult I would ever experience as I sorted out the new, harsh realities of life. Doctors appointments drained my bank account and provided no answers. Potential relationships surfaced and disappointed. Job options left me uncertain and uncomfortable.
I began to adapt to this new normal: living a life I had never dreamed.
Though the pain and loss and disappointment would haunt me for years to come, I began to know and experience glimpses of the beauty God was growing in the ashes of my storm-tossed life.
In the search for something to fill my unexpected available hours, I began serving as a mentor and counselor for a crisis pregnancy center, and then for a ministry to women in the adult entertainment industry. This newfound passion of counseling would grow in me a love for the hurting and the outcast and would lead me to develop a unique mentorship with a young woman whose unfolding story would change my life.
In this season, I would also grow to love a new body of believers and experience the joy of serving in ministry to women in the local church. I would encounter a singles community that would bring much life and laughter to my lonely days. And in the confusion of opening my heart to a young man, only to lose him, God would teach me the joy of knowing and loving the Word of God.
None of these things were in my plans. I had dreamed up none of this.
But God knows. And his dreams for me are never broken and ever beautiful.
For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” Isaiah 46:9b-10
At the age of five, when this little girl was dreaming of piano performances and a house full of babies, God captured her. He saved her soul from destruction by his grace and gave her a reason to live.
The road isn’t easy. But I do not walk alone, because he is there. He declares the end from the beginning, and he knows my name. He sees my tears, and he empathizes with my pain. He loves me perfectly and abundantly, and his plans for me are always good.
By his grace and lovingkindness, I am in my thirty-fourth year of life, and it is a life of joy. I am single, and I live with chronic pain. I don’t spend hours at the piano, but I do fill my days with purpose as the twists and turns of life ever unfold.
And so a prayer to the God of my life: Whatever the path may be, use me for your glory.
[photo credit: unsplash.com]