When I get to spend time with the East Coast Shultzes, I find that I get to see life from a different perspective. Being around loved ones I don’t get to be around very often has a way of doing that. I married into the Shultz family and I sometimes joke that I married into “CRAZY“! But let’s be real — all families have a bit of crazy.
Our two weeks in Virginia were beautiful, filled with joy, laughter, love. It was also messy, filled with challenges, tears, discord. Gather together that many people with different backgrounds, upbringings, preferences, political ideas, beliefs and it won’t be all smiles all the time. Ha! Funny thing is, put my nuclear family in a Suburban together for a 24-hour trek across country and talk about messy! Whew..
I loved our time away. Good-food-eating, kayaking, tubing, cornholing (I’m sure that’s a real word, right?), fishing (not for me — YUCK!), porch-swinging, hammock-laying, reading, laughing, chatting. So good.
For those of you who know me well, you know I am very talented at chatting. 🙂
Several chats from our trip were meaningful and challenging. One in particular. I was talking with a sweet sister who said, “I’m having to learn to give up my dreams…”
I put that ellipsis there because she said some other profound things after, but here’s where I want to sit.
She said this because her life doesn’t look like what she thought it would look like.
Wherever you are right now, whatever you’re doing, STOP! Mull that over for a minute. Think back to your childhood. What were some of your dreams? Think back to your teen years, high school days, college days. What did you think your life would look like?
If your life doesn’t look like what you thought it would look like…HOLLA!
We have some well-laid plans. But, let’s be real. Sometimes (a lot of times) our well-laid plans are not the best-laid plans. His best-laid plans. I had these plans and have these plans that seem to involve my happiness and “good” things. Health, financial stability, college graduation, a top-notch marriage, obedient children. I don’t plan difficult things — sickness, financial struggle, stress in my marriage, disobedient children. I don’t dream of tragedy striking. Yet, these things happen.
Here’s an example of something little from our lives:
We live paycheck to paycheck. We have for nearly 22 years (our wedding anniversary is next month). When I was a young girl, I dreamed of having a pool in my backyard. As I got older, I planned to have financial stability and I dreamed of having extra. A lot of extra. Some things have prevented that. Two of those things? Having a big-ish family (6 kids) and being called to homeschool our children (I don’t work outside the home and we pay for curriculum). I would not trade those two things for all the money in the world.
Let me tell you what I’ve learned. I had to let go of that dream of having extra. But, what the Lord had in store for us because of it was WAY BETTER! As we’ve waited and said “no” to things, the Lord has poured out His provision for us time and time again. The latest? A car. We went to a dealership because we really need another car. We looked around, pointed out what we like, what we dislike. We dreamed of owning a new car. We went home, sat on it, prayed about it. We decided now was not the time to add a car payment to our tight budget. But, we also couldn’t afford to lay down a chunk of change for a used car. So, we waited. And we shared. Husband B’s tiny 2-seater is not shareable, so there were three of us sharing our family Suburban (which is such a gas hog, by the way). Plus, we have a son in the mix, desperately wanting to get his license by taking that shared vehicle (and me) out to practice.
If we had extra, if we didn’t live paycheck to paycheck, we would have bought a car. But, instead, the Lord had something else in store for us — a family on Jake’s soccer team who had been looking to give away their older car to a family who needed it. As only God can, He orchestrated a weekend of guest playing together and a conversation about our plans for the rest of the day, which happened to involve a lot of driving around to various places in one shared vehicle. Bam! Another need met. All because we have to rely on Him and His timing. Rejoicing, once again, in the Lord’s provision.
I could tell you all sorts of stories about our good dreams that don’t come true, our well-laid plans that don’t turn out. Some are little things, like family arguments or having to forego buying new shoes for a time. Some are big things, painful things, like abuse, divorce, death. I could also tell you all sorts of stories about His best-laid plans that we only discovered after our well-laid plans fell through. After all, isn’t our God One who gives a “crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair”? (Isaiah 61:3)
We have a God we can trust. A God who is completely sovereign! It’s okay to give up our dreams. It’s okay to hold loosely to our plans. It’s okay to let go of what we think our lives should look like. I have a book that I think everyone should read — Shattered Dreams: God’s Unexpected Path to Joy by Larry Crabb. You should read it.
There is this joy in the journey that only comes when we experience what Yahweh has in store for us. Our stories aren’t just ones of health, financial stability, a top-notch marriage, obedient children. They’re also ones of sickness, financial struggle, divorce, disobedient children. Our stories are full of beauty and ugliness. They’re full of love and discord. They’re full of order and brokenness.
When our well-laid plans don’t work out, may we trust the One who holds all the best-laid plans in the palm of His hand, and who freely gives them to us.