Yesterday marked five years since the day I first put my story online. Beggar’s Daughter was not a blog then; it was just a webpage. Just a story. Just my story.
I thought that if I shared it just that once, God would leave me alone and let me continue to pursue my dreams. One begrudging act of obedience merited a little blessing, I thought.
That was 2009. I was just over five years out of high school and nowhere near where I planned on being. My five year plan back in 2003 included med school, a pending MD after my name, a diamond on my hand, with a baby on the way all wrapped up in a white picket fence out in the middle of suburbia. That was my plan.
By the time 2009 rolled around, not one bit of that plan had come to pass. I had no degree at all, no diamond, baby, or white picket fence, and the only MD in my future was the postal abbreviation for Maryland. My new plan included marrying a military man and possibly going back to school. Beggar’s Daughter was, quite honestly, a speed bump that I was happy to get over as quickly as possible. I created the site and thought that would be it. There, God, I’ve done what you asked. Can I have my dreams back now?
Five years later, I am still nowhere near where I have planned. There is no degree, no diamond, no baby, no white picket fence, and in a few months, I will have no MD at all associated with my name. But I have learned something over these past five years:
God’s plans are so much better.
I know it is cliche. People tell us that all the time. It always seems easy for them to say it too.
Of course God’s plans are ‘better’ when you get what you want. When you ‘sacrifice’ everything but meet your husband your first day on the mission field, of course God’s plans are better. Of course God’s plans are better when you are standing in greener pastures. When you ‘waited’ for marriage but got married at 19, of course God’s plans are better. When you lost your job but won the lottery the next day with some ticket you found in a puddle, of course God’s plans are better. When you ‘lose’ it all, but have it handed back to you, of course God’s plans are better.
When we are in the middle of loss and some snarky smart-mouthed Christian waltzes up to us and says, “God’s plans are better,” I do not know about you, but I want to hit them. When I lost my cousin in November, the last thing I wanted (or needed) to hear was how God’s plans were better.
Of course, you can say that. You are not dealing with grief and loss! God looks great to you right now.
So, I know some of you read that and thought, “Whatever. You don’t know where I am. How can this be better?”
I did not say God’s ways were easier. I said His plans are better.
I am a planner. I bleed to-do lists. I am a take charge, go getter, need-to-be-in-the-know kind of person. I want the five easy steps, the how-to, the shortest distance between two points. That is who I am.
That is not God. It’s not how He works; at least not with me.
The last five years have been hard. I have wrestled with Him more times than I care to count. I have cried broken tears into my pillow late at night, and swung angry fists at how unfair this can seem. I have driven away from friends’ weddings regretting the day I ever took on this label. I have spent late nights hacking website code and answering e-mails. I once worked four different jobs simultaneously just so I could maintain everything.
I went from a high school valedictorian with dreams of being a doctor, to being a restaurant manager, teacher, insurance specialist, and now, nanny. The only thing ‘secure’ in my life is this, actually. This is the only thing that has been constant over the last five years. I have moved, lost jobs, gained jobs, changed churches, lost friends, gained friends, even lost family members… nothing is the same. Nothing is sure.
It is easy to look at that and say, “Better?! How is this better?! What’s the point?”
I have crunched numbers. I have compared in envy. I have coveted. I have lusted. I have fallen. I have failed. I have been tempted. I have seduced. I have questioned. I have doubted.
Some days I look like Moses, but most days I am really Jonah.
There have been the knowing looks. The solicitations. The whispers from that split-tongued serpent telling me that I need to go back. The times when I say I am still a virgin and people look at me like I have grown antlers.
It is not easier.
But it is better.
Ask me if I would trade the past five years for anything- any degree, any marriage, any position in the world, and I would tell you no. Every e-mail I get from a woman in need reminds me of why I, and so many others, do what we do. It is not fun. It is not easy. But, every opportunity I get to share His grace, in a way, erases all of those moments of wondering why.
Perhaps the most important lesson of trust I have learned in all of this is:
Just stop planning.
Now, that does not mean you flounder through life completely aimless and without ambition. I have tried that too, and trust me, it does not work. Neither does getting so focused on what you want later that you miss the ministry you can have now.
Over the past five years, some of you have written me. You want to share your story too. You want to know how. You want to know how you get here. Here is what I can tell you:
You do not get anywhere. God leads you where He wants you. Just be faithful wherever you are.
Seize every opportunity to share, to grow, to learn. Invest in people even if they will never know who you are.
There are days I wake up and I do not feel like doing this any more. You will have those days too. Sometimes, God does move us from one place to the next. Usually, though, we are just tired. We are weary and lose sight of what our purpose is here. We want our plans because they make sense and they are easy.
In the end, though, His plans are so. much. better.
I have no idea what they will bring, but I look forward to the next five years.