Saturday, April 4, 2015

Perfectly Planned

As human beings, we love to make plans. We plot and dream and reason, crafting our ideas in our mind's eye and then pouring our energy into making the plans become a reality. The funny thing is, despite all of our efforts and imagining, reality typically seems to unfold somewhat differently than the well thought-out plans of our hearts. This blog has been writing itself in my mind all morning. Let's see if it comes out the same way as I have been imagining!

I always planned on starting a family before age 25. Since I was married at 23, my plan seemed likely to be fulfilled. However, despite all our planning and scheming, the pregnancy test didn't come back positive until my 26th year. I always planned on having the cute pregnancy pics taken; the ones that would forever commemorate the gift of life growing inside and the love of husband and wife that brought that life into being. However, I didn't plan on the abnormal quad-screen test early into my second trimester or the series of specialized ultra-sounds. I never planned on the necessary pre-term delivery and long hospital stays. I DEFINITELY didn't plan on giving birth to a child with Down syndrome only a few days shy of my 27th birthday. And yet, nearly six years later, my life is more beautiful with the gift of my first born child Benjamin, 47 chromosomes and all! His smile, his hugs, and his laughter warm my heart every day, and the joy of loving him, as well as the many lessons he has taught us, have far out-weighed the grief over his difficulties and delays.

Shawn and I planned to try for a second child after Benjamin's second birthday. We never planned that our son would be only a few months shy of turning four before we would welcome that child into the world. I always planned on having all my babies by age thirty, yet here I was giving birth near the end of my 30th year and still dreaming of more children to come. In hind-sight, though, the timing was perfect. Benjamin literally started walking independently during the few days that his sister and I were in the hospital. I planned on having the beautiful pregnancy pictures taken the second time around, yet I didn't plan on the complications with a low-lying placenta that arose near the start of my second trimester or the frightening few months of bleeding and constant fatigue. Yet, in early 2013 I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl. Her very presence has brought healing to my heart. Her affectionate and lively personality lights up my days and keeps me on my toes! She is such a precious gift.
Last December, I stood in the bathroom with shock and awe as the pregnancy strip registered positive. We weren't planning to get pregnant; I wasn't expecting to be expecting. Yet here we are, preparing to welcome our baby boy Josiah in early August. This pregnancy has been an unexpected gift and relatively smooth-sailing. I finally got the pregnancy pictures I had previously planned for when our neighbor asked to take our portraits for his photography class. It definitely didn't unfold the way I planned, but I am so grateful. I can hardly wait to meet my sweet son and tackle the rewarding challenge of parenting three small children!
Interestingly, though, we always planned for two boys and a girl. Long before we conceived our first child, three names were dropped in our hearts: Benjamin, Josiah, and Joelle. They have always felt so real to me, before they ever came into being. I suppose that's because they were already very much alive in the heart of God, and He knew the perfect time for each of them to make their debut in history (His-story). I always assumed they would arrive in the order we received the names, but I was thrilled beyond description when the ultra-sound technician announced during my second pregnancy, "It looks like a girl!" I am equally thrilled this time around to welcome a son, as I was the first. I always planned to love my children, but in this area I planned too little. How could I have even begun to anticipate the depth of love I would feel for each one? Life has definitely not gone just as I planned, but the reality has unfolded with such grace and beauty.
There is a place for planning. We need vision, and we need direction. Most of us have heard the well-coined phrase, "To fail to plan is to plan to fail." However, I think the greatest plan is to keep my plans yielded to God's plans, Whose vision is eternal and Whose wisdom is supreme. I'm reminded of Proverbs 19:21, Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."
Tomorrow we will celebrate Resurrection Sunday. In the morning we will read Benjamin and Joelle a board book that presents a simple rendition of Jesus death and resurrection. Instead of a traditional Easter basket, they will each receive a stuffed lamb and a stuffed lion as we explain that Jesus is the Lamb of God who died for our sins, and He is the victorious Lion who rose from the dead and is coming back for us someday. God's plans are perfect and His ways beyond our natural ability to comprehend. I love my children intensely. I would quickly lay down my life for each of them. My love is in no way greater or superior to the love of the very Author of life and love. Yet His perfect plan was to send His perfect, beautiful Son to die for me and to die for you. No human planning or reasoning, and no principality or power could have ever conceived of this plan of Almighty God to send His flawless Son to earth as a helpless baby, to grow up in obscurity in a small Jewish town learning the trade of carpentry, laboring and sweating, and experiencing the weakness and fatigue common to man. No one could have imagined the entire hope and redemption of the human race hanging on the master plan of God to have His Son hang on a cruel, Roman cross and suffer a criminal's death in order to overcome our sin and death and to be resurrected three days later. God's plan made no sense to the natural mind of man, and the coming of the promised Messiah unfolded so contrary to expectations of His people. However, the promise of Jesus' cross and resurrection is the foundation for every other promise of God in all of history. The seeming foolishness of the cross was in fact the very wisdom of God and is the anchor of our hope, our redemption, and our freedom. Today I am reminded that Jesus' first coming and the promise of His second coming is the assurance that no matter how circumstances may unfold in this life, God's eternal plan is ALWAYS perfect!