Sometimes life just doesn’t go as planned. Yesterday, on my way to a meeting, I got stuck behind a farm vehicle rambling along ridiculously slow with a fishtailing wagon on back, making it impossible to pass. Why does this always seem to happen when I’m on a schedule and I have to be somewhere at a set time? It’s part of living in the country, I guess. At first annoyed—because who likes having their schedule interrupted?—I decided to accept my new reality and enjoy the slowed pace.
Slowed pace? Hmmm. I started thinking about how I rush about, flitting like a finch in my garden from one coneflower to the next, stuffing myself with seeds of to-dos. The list is endless. There’s always something more to do, always somewhere else to go, always some crammed schedule to keep. And I often long for slowing, breathing deep, looking at something other than what’s right in front of my nose—which is usually a steering wheel.
So I expanded my view beyond the back of the trailer. I looked at the farmers in the fields, finally able to till soil after a flooded spring. I looked at budding trees breaking open in new bright green. I spotted several deer off by where the woods and field meet, enjoying morning breakfast of leftover corn. And I took a deep breath and gave thanks for life’s change in plans.
Later that day, I left the house in a hurry—again!—for another appointment a half hour away. Keys in hand, I flew out the door and threw myself into the car parked by the garage. For some strange reason, I decided to check my texts before starting the engine. Good thing I did because I learned that my meeting needed to be rescheduled. Phew! Another opportunity to sit for a minute and take another deep gratitude breath. I sat in my car and looked around.
What IS that? My eyes land on a bird in the sugar maple by the drive. Could it possibly be a bird I can’t identify?
I’m the biggest bird brain around and I had never seen this one. So I started going through my mental bird book and ruled out every Wisconsin bird I knew. Nope. None of those. I wondered if it was a baby Baltimore Oriole because of its small size, black wings, and bright orange feathers. But it had a creamy white belly, which orioles don’t have. I just sat in the moment—life changed by cancellation of appointment—and enjoyed the bird perched with stunning song. Later, I got out my bird book and identified it as a male American Redstart, a warbler type. WOW! A bird I’ve never seen with a gorgeous voice I’ve never heard. All because of a little life change.
How many times has life been interrupted or changed? How much stress has been felt when life doesn’t unfold according to plan? How much wonder and beauty has been missed because of rigid expectations and harsh pushing forward?
Too much. Too much stress instead of breath. Too much rushing instead of slowing. Too much insistence instead of acceptance.
I entered adulthood with grand plans of career, marriage, and family. My career took a number of unexpected turns. Originally, I had planned a life as a concert pianist, having been admitted into a prestigious music conservatory under the tutelage of an accomplished concert pianist. Made me sick, literally. Being cooped up in a piano practice room for hours every day and the intense competition taught me that I’m far too social and that I’m really not that competitive. Body and soul were telling me, in no uncertain terms, to change course. So, after a year, I changed majors and pursued a degree in Elementary Education with major emphasis in music as well as psychology. The change led to a fulfilling career with children and many friends I wouldn’t have met otherwise.
After working several years as a third grade teacher and then as a college admissions director, I decided to pursue a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. The redirection of career gave me the awesome opportunity to help people in very gratifying ways—some which saved lives.
Shortly after marrying, my husband and I discovered we couldn’t conceive children. What a huge change in plans that was! I had never even considered the possibility of infertility, let alone adoption. But my husband and I loved kids, wanted a family, and decided to open our home and our lives to children in need of parents. Becoming adoptive parents of three Russian children, all with special needs stemming from prenatal exposure to alcohol, necessitated me becoming a full time stay-at-home mom that later led to becoming a home-schooling mom. It would take a book to write all I’ve learned, all the ways I’ve grown, by adopting our three kids. But the best part is coming to know three hearts and souls I would never have met otherwise and giving three orphans a loving family.
Here I am, looking back on altered life plans, some by choice, some by circumstance. It’s true for most, isn’t it? Either way, by choice or circumstances, change happens. Sometimes we welcome it. Sometimes we don’t. It’s the unwelcomed changes—those that force us out of our comfort zone of familiarity or expectations—that tend to grow us the most, if we allow. When circumstances like farm vehicles blocking our path or people canceling our plans come along, we are faced with fuming or accepting the change with open hearts and minds. There’s always something new to learn—always something new to experience. And perhaps, changes are exactly what we need to open us up to possibilities we would never have noticed or pursued otherwise.
I can’t say that I always like being confronted with change. But I can say that, with the proper mindset, change can always bring growth. And often, there’s even greater blessing to be found through the changes than had we stayed on the path we were on. Question is, can we trust God enough with His plans to let go of demanding our own?
Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21
Photo of American Redstart by Laura Gooch