So today is one of those days when I look around me and realize that things are not as I had planned.
So maybe plans are a bad idea, you say? No, I still lean back on what I said about Beck’s Cognitive Triad so long ago. (So long = maybe a week.) I honestly believe that if things haven’t turned out the way you wanted or the way you planned, God has other plans. I’m trusting that He’ll bring His will to pass, and my job is to follow along as best I can. I fight a lot though, or get distracted by cool bugs, or find a path that I think looks more adventurous, and I get all sorts of stuck.
This post really isn’t about getting unstuck, though. It’s more about making the best of situations you’re in, and then also making plans to be in different places.
There are so many things I wanted to do before I got married, and things I wanted to do before I had kids, and I’m sure there are things I’ll want to do before the Goose has kids. So perhaps it’s best if I write this as an open letter to the Goose, in order to prepare her for making regrettable choices.
When you’re old enough to understand this, I hope you’ll have been less timid than your old dad. Don’t take this as me beating up on myself, but instead as the wisdom of experience.
You’re not quite two right now, and as I type this, you’re napping. Peter Francis #1 is with you, while Peter Francis #2 is in the laundry. You may have learned this by now, but your adorable giraffe blanket has a twin that we purchased once we found out how much you loved the original. We wanted to be certain that if something happened to one, we’d have a backup. We swap them out periodically so they wear evenly, and for the time being, you’re secure in the fact that you have Peter Francis.
We do these sorts of things, your mom and I, because we love how much you love that guy. We love the adventures you have with Super Peensy, and how he brings out your affection. We love how much he comforts you in ways that mommy and I can’t, simply because he’s your friend.
Hold on to that friend, whether it’s Peter Francis, or another stuffed animal, or whatever you choose. Having things and people you can rely on to love you and not judge you is one of the best things in life you can have.
As you grow into the amazingly wonderful woman your mom and I know you’re going to be, I want you to know some things.
- When I went to college, I lived most of it with my parents. It saved a lot of money, and I got out of my undergrad debt-free. It was a huge blessing. On the other hand, though, I never got to experience things that a lot of my friends did. I didn’t get that initial independence of not having to let my parents know I was going out for the night, or that I may not be home until Monday, or whatever. Your grandparents were pretty understanding about me doing things, and I did make a lot of my own plans, but I never felt like I was out from under their watchful eye, and it made me timid. I didn’t feel like I developed the confidence I should have had at the time.
- When I first became a Christian, I had plans to be a missionary to somewhere far away and wonderful, where I could learn about the local people, get to know them, and share the good news that God Himself loves them so much that He made the way for their sins to be forgiven. I had such dreams and ambitions, and to be honest, I don’t know what happened. I got timid again. I never committed to doing mission work, despite my dreams and plans and goals.
- I’ve thought lots and lots of times about finding work in Alaska. Why Alaska? I have no clue. Something about the great cold north, something about setting myself against the elements. I still haven’t made that happen, and deep down, I fear I never will, simply because I’m timid. Something could go wrong.
I could keep adding to this list, but I want you to understand something. There’s no way to get to the end of life without regrets, but there are regrets that can be avoided. If you have a dream, and it fills your dreams and your imagination, do what you can to pursue it. If you change your mind along the way, that’s okay! The other side of a lot of these stories is that things turn out how they turn out, and you’re never without options, no matter how stuck you feel. Even though I didn’t teach English in China and help build secret underground churches, I learned that my interests lie elsewhere. Will God call me to that someday? God is God, and can do whatever He wants. So maybe. And maybe not. And even though I didn’t get the “full college experience” by living in the dorms, I was able to participate in a bible study that built some really great lasting relationships in my hometown. And to be fair, I haven’t given up on Alaska, yet.
There are also some great things that I have done, and I have to remind myself of those things. I have a master’s degree, for one thing. Only about 8% of people over 25 in the US can say that. And one of the dreams I have that I didn’t mention in the list above is to become a Christian therapist. I’ve got the schooling under my belt, and I’m looking for an opportunity now to get started. My love of the Gospel and its Giver hasn’t ever left, despite waxing and waning. My dream is to counsel people who feel lost and help them find guidance back to the narrow path that God has selected just for them. And for being a missionary, I did local work right after coming to faith, and helped lead a lot of children to faith in Christ. These are accomplishments that I can look back on and say, “Yes, my life has meant something.”
One of the reasons I’m a behavior therapist right now instead of a talk therapist is because, honestly, the money is decent, and your mom and I have bills to pay. It’s okay to be reasonable about such things. I have no idea when I’ll be able to be a therapist in the field I want. I honestly have no idea if that’s God’s plan or not.
And it’s okay.
I know I have regrets, and some of them are because I turned left instead of right or picked green instead of yellow, or whatever other metaphor you want to throw in. But some of my regrets are because I simply didn’t choose at all, which is arguably a choice in itself. Timidity. God didn’t build us for that, and yet it’s an option a lot of us choose. My hope and prayer for you is that you make good choices. I know they won’t all be right. I know you won’t have time to think them all out. I know from my own experience that sometimes you make a really crappy choice, and God takes up the slack and gives you something wonderful. I also know from experience that He’ll sometimes let that slack go and let you get yourself into a mess, so that you seek Him out.
So much advice I could give about that!
Trust God with your life, kiddo. When all else fails, He’s still there, even when it seems like He’s not. Maybe especially. When He gives you dreams and visions, talk to Him about them. Get the details, and move forward. Your life isn’t your own. My life certainly hasn’t been, despite all my attempts otherwise.
Take chances, too. Not all the dreams you have will be safe. Neither will all the things you’re called to. To quote Tolkien:
“He used often to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep, and every path was its tributary. ‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,’ he used to say. ‘You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
You were born into this world for wonderful reasons, Goose. Trust God to those reasons, and allow Him to guide you on the Road to wherever He takes you.
I love you now, and I’ll love you when you’re old enough to have any idea what I’m talking about.