It’s been nagging at me for a while. What would I do if I couldn’t lead the ministry I founded back in 2002?
Actually, it was probably another one of God’s smacks upside my dull head. I have been a writer and speaker from my youth. Forensics, Advanced Placement English, editing my boss’ horrendous dictation had all equipped me over the years. God had to remind me that I have a story to tell that goes far beyond the diagnoses my children have received and the role I have played as their advocate and caregiver. In fact, my life is a series of events that are largely a collection of “not exactly what I had in mind.”
If I reflect back to my childhood, it was a chaotic and dysfunctional disappointment. While I have a sibling who has fond memories of childhood, I am not as fortunate. My youngest years were marked by yelling, and fighting, and breaking of things, and wondering if there would ever be peace. I longed for the acceptance and love of my parents, but was dragged down in the undertow of mocking, and rejection, and being pushed to the side. My flaws and incompetency were emphasized rather than being cheered on to my full potential.
As a result, my life rode off the rails in my teen years, completely imploding in young adulthood. I was a smart kid with great potential, but I undermined my success in nursing school with sex, drinking, and drugs. I was looking in all the wrong places for that acceptance I had never received. I finally moved back home in desperate defeat when my drug-dealing boyfriend beat the crap out of me one night.
Home-going was met with drama and a plea to get counseling, which I did. I’m not sure it helped at that point. I could barely understand the woman from India who counseled me in her home. It bought me enough time to get back on my feet and back to the independence I loved. I didn’t return to school, but used my clerical skills to land jobs enough to live on my own. With a competent brain (despite all the cells I had killed), I was able to advance fairly quickly, but hopped from job to job, restless for more.
Entering the financial world through an entry-level job at a clearing house marked an enormous fork in the road. Ironically, the girl who was lousy at math in school found sudden agility with numbers and an interest in the stock market. In the position I held I spoke with investment brokers from every part of the nation. My experience quickly taught me that they were collectively the dumbest bunch of fools known to mankind. With that knowledge, I felt I could easily propel my own life forward by training to pass the exams for my various broker’s licenses. And so it began – a career in the investment world that spanned well over a dozen years of my life.
During that same time, I met my first husband. Honestly, I could not tell you what I saw in him other than that he was a very kind man. My girlfriends were groupies of his band. He was the drummer. His family was old money, and I’m sure I gave his mother more than one gray hair with my liberal world views at the time. After miscarrying our only child a year after marriage, I was off the deep end again. A broker I worked with suddenly began paying attention to me, and my husband was foolish enough to believe my excuses for coming home late or not coming home at all. Guilt-ridden, I filed for divorce, destroying my own relationship a mere two years after walking down the aisle.
Living on my own allowed me to live fast and loose again. I had no shortage of dates as I chased after personal worth in all the wrong ways and places.
My second husband came into my life before my divorce had been finalized. A friend of mine, who was dating his brother, brought boys along to “girls night out.” He asked me on a date, and I accepted. Honestly, I think I was way more into him than he ever was into me. We lived forty miles apart. When I told him I couldn’t make the commute any more, he asked me to move in with him. It felt like the clock was ticking on the life I had envisioned – a strong husband with a solid career, children, a nice home, everything a material life can achieve. I wasn’t willing to settle for just moving in with him. I pushed for marriage. (Some other time I’ll share with you all the “not exactly what I had in mind” nightmares THAT creates!)
We were married in June of 1992 in a hot air balloon on a ninety-degree day, floating high above Interstate 94 in Jefferson County, Wisconsin. Life was on my own trajectory when another huge fork in the road appeared. I miscarried our first child three years into our marriage. I was just about ready to give up on life altogether when some friends arrived for an unexpected bike ride. During that ride, the wife invited me to a Bible study in their home. At this point, I had nothing to lose, so I accepted the invitation.
It was as if a shade had been lifted from my eyes the first time I attended that Bible study. All of the words I had numbly read throughout my youth suddenly came to life that night. Within a week I had made a commitment to follow Jesus, and my life has never been the same. How those people in that small group ever put up with me, I will never know. I had so many questions and was so stuck that first year. They never gave up on me (even if they secretly may have wanted to) and neither did God.
Since I unbarred the door to my heart in 1995, my life has become harder, not easier. At the same time my joy and peace have grown, not shrunk. That is because a faithful God has shown me that Jesus is the only Savior who can take life’s “not exactly what I had in mind” and turn it into something more profound, more beautiful, more lasting. Life in Christ allows me to live above my circumstances and lift my vision with eternal perspective.
No, this life is DEFINITELY not exactly what I had in mind. God makes it even better.