I have been doing online Bible studies with Proverbs 31 Ministries now for about 2.5 years. We’re gearing up for our next one starting in September with the book, “She’s Still There” by Chrystal Evans Hurst. I’m so excited to begin this study, as it is about re-discovering who you are, because as we all know, life can take some crazy twists and turns, and we can lose who we are in the process.
One of the fabulous study leaders posed a pre-study question yesterday to think about and respond to get us in the right mindset for this book. She asked, “Has your life turned out the way you always imagined it would?” I read this question and paused for a split second. My answer?
No. Absolutely not.
But that is not a bad thing.
Here’s where I’m coming from. If you don’t know me that well, you need to know that I live on a working farm in the middle of nowhere. I’m very happily married to my husband of 7 years, and we’ve been together for a total of 9. We have cows, horses, goats, and a herd of barn cats that roam the property and who think they run the show (but in reality, our two children do). But this is not where I started. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. On average, we see about 2 stars at night because my house was so close to the city, the Chicago lights drown them out. It takes about 5 minutes to get to more than 5 choices for grocery stores (10 if there’s traffic), and there’s always movement somewhere.
I attended a big elementary school, an even larger junior high, and a HUGE high school. There was always something going on somewhere, and we were never lacking entertainment. I did everything I was supposed to do to get through high school: earn good grades, join a bunch of groups/clubs, maintain some sort of a social life, and get into college. And I was blessed. I got into a great school which I LOVED and made some amazing friends who I still hold dear today. Life was going according to my plan. (Notice I said, “MY”).
The plan was to graduate Illinois State University with a degree in English Secondary Education (which I did). I’d move back home, find a job, get my feet wet, and move out to make my own living. I’d find a great place to live in the ‘burbs and continue that suburban-style living that I’d been used to, at that point, for 22 years. I’d keep in touch with my friends from high school and college, spend my weekends out in the city enjoying my freedom, and everything would be hunky-dory.
But God had other plans (And for the record, I’m so glad he did!)
Upon graduation, I feverishly began to apply for jobs. I lived back at home, and knew I could stay there as long as I wanted. I knew I needed to start making money to contribute and pay bills, and I knew I needed that health insurance from a good school district. So I applied. And applied. And applied some more. I figured calls for interviews would start coming in quickly.
Yeah, not so much. After I applied to over 40 different districts (you read that right, districts. Not individual schools), I was starting to get discouraged. But about halfway through the summer of 2008, I FINALLY got the call to interview at the school I’m at now! I was elated. They interviewed me to teach high school English, but they really wanted me to teach high school Spanish (um, what? I didn’t know right away that I had the creds to teach middle school Spanish). So I interviewed. They offered me a job then and there for the Spanish position and…I turned it down. Pretty bold on my part. I told them I didn’t feel comfortable being a first-year teacher in a subject I wasn’t comfortable with, and that I’d hold out for the English position.
I didn’t get that English position. They had hired another person to teach it, and that was that. Here’s where God always has the final say in things. The person they hired accepted a different position elsewhere later that summer, and they called me back. I had a job! That definitely was divinely orchestrated. But this would involved a big move into a new town where I knew just a couple of people…a huge leap of faith.
One of my favorite verses in scripture is Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV): “‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'”. Yep, He had those plans figured out already, long before I was ever born.
My husband and I had been dating for a short time when I accepted the job. My mom likes to joke with me that I moved so far away from her for a boy. My husband is one of the biggest blessings I have in my life, but at that stage in the game, I was thinking of health insurance and a paycheck. So picked up everything, moved my life again, and went from a busy, suburban-lifestyle, to living in quiet, slower farm life.
This was a huge culture shock for me. And even as I’m about to begin my 10th year of teaching, it still is from time to time. I have learned so many things living in small towns and on a farm (like what a hog nipple is, how to move cows, and that the county fair is the highlight of the summer), that I couldn’t express them all in this single post. But the biggest lesson I’ve gleaned from all of this is that God has those plans set to prosper us and design our futures. And He wants us to dream and set goals and reach for them as far as we can. We just need to be open to His plans as we do life everyday.
I wouldn’t change a thing of where I’m at right now (okay, maybe to have a shorter drive to Target and be able to get Chicago-style pizza). I’m not saying everyday is “sunshine and roses” and incredibly easy. It’s not. It can be hard. I miss home and my family and my friends. I’ll be honest, I miss what used to be my comfort zone. But there’s so much I’d miss out on had I not been set on the path in this direction. This is where I’m supposed to be.
So, has my life turned out the way I imagined it would?
No. Absolutely not.
How about you?