We all have cherished dreams and goals. We make detailed plans and then put in the time, effort, and sometimes money to make them happen, with the expectation that our plans will enable us to achieve our goals and realize our dreams.
And then life happens.
Twenty years ago, I got the idea of becoming a novelist. So I started to pursue that dream. I am now a successful freelance editor, and I have a couple of commercially published books, and I absolutely love what I do for a living. But I still don’t have a published novel.
When my son got married, he and his wife were eager to have children. That didn’t happen for more than a dozen years.
When they finally adopted their first baby a couple of weeks ago, I immediately made arrangements to fly from California to Texas to see my long-awaited grandchild. My hubby suggested I tack on a few days to the visit and do some work-related things so I could count the trip as a tax deduction. Great idea!
About an hour or two after I made the plane reservations, I got slammed with a nasty cold. When I arrived in Texas, I agreed to wear a mask to protect the baby. But since there’s a big concern here about whooping cough, which can kill infants, my son and daughter-in-law also wanted me to get an immunization. I went to a clinic, but the doctor told me the immunization wouldn’t be worthwhile because I was sick and because the vaccine takes two weeks to be effective.
I didn’t want to take any chances with my newborn grandson’s health, and I’d already made plans to visit friends and colleagues in various parts of Texas. So I extended those plans instead of spending more time at my son’s house. One of my sweet writer friends offered to let me stay with her for three days, even though she’s dealing with a son who has cancer.
A stupid cold derailed my plans to love on my precious grandbaby … and the plans my son and daughter-in-law had for getting some help and relief during their first few weeks of parenthood.
Cancer sidetracked my friend Lori’s writing plans … not to mention her son’s career plans when he had to drop out of nursing school, move back home, and become the patient.
What are your dreams and goals? What plans have you made to achieve them? How has “life” interfered with those plans and altered your expectations?
Writers deal with dashed hopes on a regular basis. After spending years learning the craft, honing your skills, and polishing a treasured manuscript, maybe even paying hard-earned money for a professional edit, you finally work up the nerve to submit query letters and proposals … only to receive one rejection after another. Each “no” is a stab to the heart, a dagger that slashes your dreams to shreds.
And yet … the Bible says we are to rejoice always and give thanks for everything (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Everything? Rejections? Infertility? Cancer? Losing a loved one? Being unable to see the grandbaby you dropped everything to come bond with? Surely not those things.
Yep. Even those things.
When life doesn’t go according to our plans, we can whine and moan and complain and question. Or we can trust that God has His own plans for us … and that He truly can work anything and everything out for our good. That doesn’t mean life isn’t sometimes painful. Annoying. Frustrating. Confusing. Heartbreaking. What it means is that we can choose to trust the one who loves us beyond anything we could possibly imagine. The one who knows our future. The one who isn’t surprised at all by the things that come as a total shock to us.
Sometimes rejoicing is a matter of choice. We willingly choose to live according to scriptural principals because we acknowledge that God knows what’s best for us. Can we also intentionally thank the Lord for our circumstances, even if we hate them?
Of course, we don’t have to be happy with everything that’s going on in our lives. But as Christians, we can focus on our loving heavenly Father more than our present circumstances. And put our ultimate trust in Him. Not in doctors or immune systems. Not in query letters or proposals or agents or editors. And certainly not in our elaborately orchestrated plans.
When we focus on God, we’re able to recognize the blessings He provides in the midst of our struggles. As we acknowledge those special gifts from the Lord, we’re better able to let go of our disappointments and expectations, and trust Him with the outcome and results. That perspective makes rejoicing and giving thanks … in everything … seem a little less impossible.
I wouldn’t be able to edit fiction as well if I hadn’t spent years trying to be a good novelist. And although I’m sad about not being able to spend more time with my precious grandbaby, the days I spent with my friend Lori and her sweet family were a tremendous blessing for both of us … and that wouldn’t have happened if I’d gone back to my son’s house right away.
It’s great to have dreams and goals. And to prayerfully and intelligently make plans to achieve them. But when life interrupts those plans … and it will, far too often … choosing to trust the true Orchestrator of our lives makes those detours easier to handle.
December 28, 2015 @ 10:02 pm
I started serious God-writing only after a huge “bump.” This is what I learned, am still learning:
God allows full measure of both happiness and pain,
Just as the whole of nature needs both sunshine and the rain.
You really don’t find courage until you find your fears
Or learn to measure happiness until you’ve counted tears.
My future’s all been promised and my debts have all been paid.
God is my joy, my strength, my life, and I am not afraid.
January 1, 2016 @ 8:33 pm
Beautiful, Normalu! Thanks for sharing that.
December 29, 2015 @ 4:01 am
Thank you; I needed that.
January 1, 2016 @ 8:34 pm
Glad it blessed you!
December 29, 2015 @ 6:56 am
Oh, Kathy, who wouldn’t relate to this in some way? A Bible study Holly and I took part in lends itself to your story well, a study on Jonah about how to see interruptions in our lives as “divine interventions.” As we pray to change our attitude about these times, we step back and see them for what they CAN be. It makes me think of the change to “The Serenity Prayer” I heard and fell in love with: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know it’s ME!” Love you and miss you! Can’t wait to see photos of that grandchild. When Sarah’s gets here (Feb. 4th due date), we can exchange pics! Blessings, my dear friend. (PS: if you get stuck in PA, you can always stay with us! Might have to put you up in a tent, but hey, we’d love having you! 🙂 )
January 1, 2016 @ 8:35 pm
The more we see life “interruptions” as divine interventions, the more peace and joy we can have when they happen. I’m really looking forward to seeing you in July! With my sister-in-law living just two miles from the conference center, I doubt I’ll ever be “stuck in PA.” But it’s nice to know I have a “backup plan”!
Xochi E. Dixon
December 29, 2015 @ 1:37 pm
Kathy, I appreciate your transparency. Your post describes my last four years, Sister. God’s been teaching me how to live in complete dependence on Him and totally surrender to Him. I guess He thinks I’m better with hands-on, in-the-trenches learning. During the last four years, He’s been carrying me through a healing journey that has me recovering from multiple surgeries and injections in my back, neck, and shoulders. I’ve been isolated and battling daily pain, as well as the occasional bout with depression. But, through this, He blessed me with 4 months serving as my mom’s caregiver, a miracle of mercy and a gift I’ll always treasure. He’s teaching me how to keep my hands, heart, and mind open to receive and let go. I, too, have been studying novel writing for years. Yet, the very first book I pitched is nonfiction. It’s a work of obedience and faith. And it’s been a wonderful process of drawing nearer to God as I trust Him to lead the way. I used to say, “I’m a novelist, but I’m working on a nonfiction book.” Now, I know I’m just a child of God desiring to offer God everything He has given me, in hopes He uses me in any way He sees fit. The path He has set before me is cleared by His sovereign goodness, unconditional love, and immeasurable grace. It may not be a pain free journey, but it’s the journey He determined best for me. Thanks for encouraging others to lean into God’s plan. It’s easier to notice blessings when we stop wishing we were anywhere but where He has us in this precious moment. This has been a tough week, physically and emotionally, as I grieve the loss of my mom and trust God with the results of my last nerve ablation on my back. I needed your sweet reminder. Happy New Year, Sister!
January 1, 2016 @ 8:39 pm
I’m SO sorry to hear about all of your “trenches,” Xochi! But your perspective about it all is wonderful. It’s so easy to focus on the difference between life the way we want it to be and life the way it is. But the more we CHOOSE to trust God with our circumstances, the more peace and joy we will have, placing our confidence in the one who knows what’s best for us and what we need to go through in order to get where He wants us to be.
December 29, 2015 @ 2:28 pm
This is a good reminder and one I needed to read today. Thank you for your words of encouragement.
January 1, 2016 @ 8:39 pm
So glad you were encouraged by my post, Jill!
December 29, 2015 @ 4:28 pm
Well written Kathy. Your heart fills every sentence.
January 1, 2016 @ 8:40 pm
December 29, 2015 @ 6:13 pm
Well written, Kathy. I don’t know of anyone who can’t identify with what you’ve typed out, in one way or another. So let’s believe this will be the year for your published novel!
January 1, 2016 @ 8:41 pm
I appreciate that, Simon! But to be honest, I really don’t care whether my novel gets published this year or not. I’m enjoying this part of the journey so much, and if that novel gets published this year, it might detract me from some of the other fun things I’ve got going on right now! God knows when the time is right for that novel, and I am totally comfortable with that. 🙂
December 29, 2015 @ 11:51 pm
Awesome Kathy. This last week has had its challenges and I needed to be reminded that God is still in control. All the time! Thanks.
January 1, 2016 @ 8:42 pm
I’ve heard from so many people who struggled with major issues during December of 2015. I pray 2016 will be a much easier year for you, Lori.