Life never seems to go according to my plans.
As a child growing up in Pennsylvania, I never really imagined myself ever living outside of its beauty. I could have stayed there forever, just like my oldest brother. But twenty-four years ago today, God changed my plans and moved me from the beautiful Lancaster County hill country to the flatlands in Warsaw, Indiana. It was there in Warsaw that I started a friendship with the young man who would marry me less than six and a half years later. It was there in Warsaw that God opened doors for me to study abroad in Argentina to learn Spanish at the level I needed to become bilingual.
As a college student with a heart that beat for the mission field, I always envisioned myself living a simplistic lifestyle as a foreign missionary, serving as a teacher overseas, leading Bible studies, and raising my children in a country not my own. My heart beat to "go" to the mission field, but God led me to a missions conference in Argentina where I commited to God that I was dying to "go", but I was willing to "stay".
As a newlywed who'd dated her new groom for five solid years, I assumed we already knew each other well and would merge well into married life, following a strict budget to pay off school loans so we could head to the mission field as soon as possible. Marriage didn't look anything like I'd envisioned, though, and neither did our financial reality after about two to three years.That first decade of marriage humbled me in ways I never knew I needed humbling, and it taught me the power of praying for your spouse and for your marriage. Years later, God still uses me to guide others to pray for their spouses in order to transform their own struggling marriages.
When God made it clear that he'd brought the mission field to my doorstep rather than taking me outside of the country, I poured my heart and soul into a ministry with Hispanic children that lived all around me, meanwhile teaching them English at school. I thought I'd watch my core little group grow up over time, but God whisked us away very quickly and unexpectedly to Texas. No one saw that move coming, though we knew God was giving our marriage and financial situation a chance to start over and get ourselves out of debt. It also gave me a chance to get certified as a bilingual teacher. Now when I look at pictures of my students, they're exactly as I envisioned them as a young college student with their little brown faces, brown eyes, and black hair. Children from Mexico, Central America, and even from South America at times. I just never saw myself teaching them within my own country.
As our lives began to rebuild themselves and our financial reality improved, the idea of adoption stirred in our hearts. We had our hearts set on adopting a little Hispanic girl around the age of 5 so she'd be close in age to our only son, David. We started saving money, we picked an agency, a country, and we quickly dove into the process to find her and adopt her. First we thought God said El Salvador. Then we thought we found her in Colombia. We thought for sure He led us to adopt siblings, actually, and then neither one came home. Now I teach Bible studies about clinging to faith when life doesn't make sense, and I recently started leading an online support group for those who are grieving a failed adoption.
God surprised me in my grief by sending me an angel, actually an older brother of those siblings who sent me e-mails to keep me in their lives. If God didn't bring Colombia to me, maybe He used those children to take me to Colombia. If my husband had felt the same, I think I would have sold everything and moved there in a heartbeat to be that teacher I once envisioned myself to be. We made it to Colombia to meet him and then made plans to go back as summer missionaries the following year, perhaps to see if God had a place for us to serve. Yet God still had other plans.
He wanted me to fight for the cause of the orphan and fight once more to bring one home. He wanted me to write my story, our story, to encourage others whose stories aren't going quite like they planned. He gave us a son, a teenage boy, instead of the little girl we'd planned to adopt. A son with 15 years of his own story before he ever came home. Fifteen years we missed. Fifteen years where someone else influenced him and shaped him. I love and adore him and thank God for him every day. Yet I often wonder why God chose me, why He chose us, to be the ones he will call Mom and Dad now for the rest of his life. It's definitely not the life he planned, nor is it the life we planned.
I think I'm learning not to make so many plans. It's okay to dream and obviously healthy to set goals. But to make my own plans? Let's just say I'm glad that none of my plans seem to come to fruition. God's plans never cease to amaze me when I look back and see how He trumped mine time and time again.
It's a good reminder as we get ready to embark on a new year before I'm tempted to plan it all out! And believe me, I've already got
- I am a wife, daughter, mother, bilingual teacher, poet, author, women's Bible study teacher, world traveler, orphan advocate, and an adoptive mother. Our adoption journey has been filled with a lot of hurt and loss, along with even more hope, grace, and healing. Through it we have experienced more of God than we ever bargained for and have watched Him miraculously redeem our story when we surrendered all the broken pieces to Him.