When Plans Don’t Go As Expected

Unmet Expectations
After writing about expectations in relationships last week, I have come face to face with a variety of circumstances that have caused major unmet expectations and a lot of emotion. It’s been eye opening to see how much impact unmet circumstantial expectations can cause an unravel of sorts.
We got to see our sweet baby girl on the ultrasound last week to check on her position. There is nothing like ultrasounds. They are exhilarating and terrifying. I don’t usually relax into them until I hear her heartbeat and then I usually tear up and proceed to marvel that there is a little person inside of my belly. They make the whole thing real to see her little body developing and wiggling around. She has been breech most of our pregnancy and we were ever hopeful that at our 36 week appointment she would have flipped over. No such luck. She is breech with her little legs crossed at the bottom of my uterus. It explains the frequent kicks to the bladder. Our Doctor began discussing the options in the coming weeks and it is overwhelming. Step one is trying to exercise and do various things to get her to flip naturally. There is a website called spinning babies we are supposed to do exercises from. The next thing will be deciding if we want to do a  manual version, this procedure where the doctor manually tries to flip her. We aren’t a good candidate for it because of the type of breech position she is in, how long she has been breech and then the position of my placenta. Not to mention the risks make Chad and I nervous. It has a 40 percent success rate normally, and apparently is even less with our circumstance. So c-section is on the table as a very real option.
Cue expectations galore. I have known for a few months that this could happen, but I secretly hoped that she would flip by 36 weeks and all would be well. It was my timeline. But how often do our plans happen the way we hope?  I am really disappointed that there is a big possibility that I am going to have a c-section. In a sense I am grieving the hope of having a vaginal delivery. It’s not that I want to be a super hero, I just wanted to go through the process that my body is made to do and that I have mentally prepped for. I have spent a lot more time thinking about delivering vaginally and wrapping my brain (sort of) around this and the recovery.
I realized I have a lot of fear around surgery, needles and epidurals. I have heard a lot of well meaning people say that it’s not a big deal, it’s a blessing that I won’t have to go through the pain of labor, that as long as she gets here safe that’s all that matters or that the recovery isn’t that bad. But none of this has been comforting for me. And it know it’s because I am grieving the expectation of giving birth vaginally. It’s what you expect to happen nine months after you get the positive test. It’s what you start mentally preparing for. Other people have told me she still could flip. Which I suppose still could happen. But I am wrestling with holding out hope and being devastated the day of surgery. I’d like to get to a place where I am genuinely okay with either. This means allowing myself to grieve and feel frustrated.
I am processing this in real time, so this isn’t fully processed in many ways. But I am realizing that the root of my anxiety and cause of expectation is I like to be in control. This is a developed coping mechanism to keep me “safe”. When I am in a good place, I recognize that I am not in control, God is and he is good so I have nothing to fear. My ability to keep myself safe is somewhat a facade. When I am stressed, triggered by something or feel vulnerable, I clench for control even more. Emotions unravel and I retreat some. I can become mean to people I love because internally I am in a state of sheer panic. The hardest part is I don’t want to be like this. I want to constantly trust God and have my emotions be in alignment with this and experience his peace. Truly, the crisis comes because I am depending on myself and know deep inside I am powerless to really do much.
This becomes especially true regarding my body. The more I read and learn about labor, the more I discover that this is a process my body knows how to do but not my brain persay. It’s something that can feel really out of control because it just happens and moves at its own pace. Labor is the exact opposite of control, and the closer it gets the more freaked out I become. Both by labor and c-section. Both feel like something I can’t control. The surgery even more so. I will be immobile, unable to see or feel anything (for good reason), and I will be at the mercy of my doctor and nurses. Labor vaginally feels like I will have a tiny bit more control because I can choose how I am managing my pain but still is far from the measured calculations/ preparation that I’d like. So both of these have sent me into a complete emotional tail spin. My body is riddled with anxiety and panic, particularly at night. If I think about it too long or hard, I will spontaneously cry. And anything that causes me to feel out of control right now triggers me and leaves me in a panic and reactive.
 I never anticipated that labor would expose a layer of healing that needs to happen. This need to be in control is not something I want to remain. It turns me into a bit of a crazy person. It leaves me trying to control circumstances and even people around me. It’s a big sign of a wound that needs healed and a muscle that needs strengthening. We weren’t designed to control and micromanage our life in calculated caution. We aren’t meant to be paralyzed by fear and working ourselves into a frenzy to do everything we can to avoid anything that makes us feel uncomfortable or out of control. We were designed to trust our Maker fully because he is good and will take care of us. We were made to live in freedom.
This reaction of control shows me there is doubt regarding that God is trustworthy. I think this wound is part of the fall, part of the brokenness of humanity. Evil in the world and unmet expectations further this woundedness. The enemy of our souls says “if God really is good he wouldn’t let this happen”. But this is a lie. Mostly around the responsibility piece. The enemy wants to blame shift and get the responsibility of evil off of himself onto God. This creates an even greater divide between us and God, his ultimate goal. In this circumstance, my temptation is to believe that something is wrong with my body. The deeper lie is a form or rejection. That because this isn’t going according to my plan, I am rejected by God is some way. But this also is a lie, because I am assuming that God’s plan is the same as mine. But the reality is his plan actually could be a c-section for sweet baby girl for a reason unknown to me. And the enemy is using this to attempt divide me from my Heavenly Father, the very One I need right now. This is why expectations around circumstances are dangerous.
So what am I doing about this struggle? It’s raw and ugly right now. It’s a lot of prayer and tears. It’s a lot of honesty with God about how I want to be in control but I am not and how this security is really a facade. I find myself grieving the expectations in God’s comforting arms and leaning on Chad when I fail to remember that our God is good. It’s being gracious with myself and apologizing when I hurt my love ones when I lose my mind and lash out. It’s being honest with myself that I am wounded but that God is my healer. He has healed much in my life and I can trust him to heal this. He has a perfect track record. And any fear I feel around birth, vaginally or cesarean, can be placed in God’s hands as he writes the story of how she comes into this world. It will be good no matter what.

A Letter: Facing God’s No

Facing Disappointment

Dear Friend,

I know this “no” hurt. It’s hard not to let the voice of rejection ring loud in your heart after you prayed and sought God for his very best. From your vantage point, this looked like the best. It rang true with the very desire of your heart. And then for some reason, He said this wasn’t it. The door closed, the relationship ended, the dream died. Silence followed and all that you could hear was the breaking of your own heart.

I know you cried out from the depths of your heart. You thought you laid your desires out at his feet and believed that he would grant them. You ask, “Doesn’t he want to grant the desire of my heart? Doesn’t he see this need or want for what it is? Isn’t there a chance that he is the one that placed it there?” If the answers to these questions are “yes” then why did he come back with a no?

The truth is he does want to fulfill the desires of our heart. The desires he placed there. Not all desires we have sadly, are from him. We have a deceitful heart (Jeremiah 17:9), that seeks to satisfy our own selfishness and flesh (Galatians 5:17). Our motives are not always pure nor are they always in alignment with him (Jeremiah 17:10). Even when it seems like they are, he searches the far reaches of our heart for the true motive. Maybe we aren’t even conscious of what this is yet.  Sometimes the no is the very thing that exposes our true heart and demands a part of our flesh to die so we can walk in life.

I know this “no” feels like hope deferred and heart sickness (Proverbs 13:12). As the waves of sadness come, it seems that all is lost. Maybe even a part of you feels like you are dying. But is it possible that he is about to raise you to life?

Our Father is kind. Is it possible that this very no is his kindness stretched out? Our emotions are fickle. They are like the waves of the ocean, tossing us about.  They are not truth which we can stand on. They are real, yes, and worthy to acknowledge at his feet and definitely a part of how he created us. We should not feel ashamed of our heart and emotion. But they are not trustworthy. They do not proclaim truth about a situation to us without the proper footing on the Rock which we can stand. This is where we need his Word, his voice echoing in the midst of our emotion. We need to hang onto him.

You see, our Father sees what we cannot around the bend of that “yes” we so desired. He can see the outcome had he met that request with a yes. Imagine for a moment that if he said yes to this particular thing that it would lead you down a road away from his heart? What if this form of granting the desire of your heart meant giving you away to the world? What if you missed knowing his heart or the fullness of his love? Maybe it meant you bypassed the very reason you were created, or were left to a spiritual demise that devastated him.

God doesn’t promise an easy road without disappointment and valleys of suffering and despair (1 Peter 1:6). He doesn’t promise to meet our desires and needs in our way on our time table (Isaiah 55:8). He will not leave us wanting (Isaiah 58:11). He will provide for us (Matthew 6:26-27). He will not forsake us or abandon us, ever (Romans 8:38-39). But he also is faithfully committed to love us and complete the work He began in us (Philippians 1:6). What work is that you ask? The work of making us like his son, Jesus. This means a death, a dying of self to be raised to life again. This also means providing for us in his way, his timing. It doesn’t usually look like what we thought and certainly often contrast the world. It demands our trust, even when it isn’t easy to give.

And so because He loves you, he said no. He said I will not give you away. When you asked him for his will, his way, his best, he lovingly said no I have better.

In his time, in his way he will lead you to his best. In the meantime, lean into the comfort of his arms. Let him shelter you under his wings (Psalm 91:1). He is close to the brokenhearted (Matthew 5:4). Let him expose his love for you and heal your broken heart. Likely, he is just waiting for you to discover more of him. He is longing for you to know him more and anxiously awaiting your companionship. Don’t hide. Don’t reject him. He is the very thing you need.

 

 

The Third Road

Third Road Image
Flashback to May last year. The husband graduated Seminary and we were full  of expectation as he walked across the stage. We were praying about pastoral positions he had applied for and several of them looked promising. The other road that we were peering down was an opportunity for him to teach at the college level. Both were exciting and meant big change for us. We were overwhelmed but very excited about the possibility of either option.
Several of the pastoral positions ended up taking him through each step further and further. We were in some of the top positions and it almost seemed as we had options. We took each step in prayer and sought counsel. We thought we were doing everything right. In many ways I think we did. We always prayed for God’s best and said we didn’t want to settle for something other than what he had for us. The funny thing is we didn’t fully consider what this could mean if there was a third road.
The door to each church one by one closed and it seemed like the dream of ministry came crashing down. So we turned our attention to teaching. And this door also came to a close. Though an opportunity came very close to fruition, it still ended up as a no. So then I watched my husband turn his attention to a job. Any job. I watched him spend hours a day applying to anything that he could find. Still nothing. He worked a 40 hour a week job just searching for work. Recruiters, postings that he was beyond qualified for. Nothing. I watched him go to interview after interview with hope and come home with no news. We waited for calls and an answer and still nothing. I watched him be faithful even when there was nothing to show for it. As optimism faded, he still soldiered on. Even minimum wage positions told him no because he was over qualified. Grief crouched at our door. And then was ushered in. This went on for months.
We moved in with my parents in the transition when we were a final candidate at a church out of state. At the time we thought it was a temporary landing place for us to move from. We resisted signing leases because we were holding out for God’s best not knowing that he was positioning us in that place unbeknownst to us.
With each no, we considered that maybe we took a wrong turn and we came back to the drawing board. I watched my husband holding a diploma with a masters degree and say maybe I need to start again. And by begin again he meant start a new degree at the bachelors level. It all felt like a waste. A joke or an empty promise to run a race so far and have nothing but a piece of paper with a signature saying he had mastered something. To start again felt like a dead weight, but it was one of th few viable options. So he applied. Was accepted and even registered for classes. Engineering. It was the logical choice. But the debt loomed over us and we wondered with unsettled hearts how this could be God’s best.
I pleaded with God that somehow we wouldn’t have another 4 year road for another degree and an additional mountain of debt. That the work he did in school would be fruitful and some job would come that would provide for us. At a random networking event, one my husband almost didn’t go to, God answered that prayer.  But not in the way I expected.
He heard about a program that was a trade school. It was a bootcamp of sorts for computer coding. The field he was considering pursuing instead with a four year degree and debt that consumed us.  He met with a person who encouraged him to look into it and also try a few exercises to see if it was a good fit. So then I watched him explore a new topic and like it more than he expected. He then began the competitive process to get in. This 7 month program was not for the faint of heart. The application process included an essay, an exam like the LSAT, a video and paperwork. If you were one of the 25 percent moved into the next round, you then faced an interview which was an hour long and then you had to take a logic test verbally with the person you were interviewed by. Then half of those interviewed were selected. It was grueling and seemed like a total bait and switch for my heart. But we had run flat out of options. So he gave it his all and we prayed the same prayer, God we only want your best.
And God said yes. He said yes to an option that wasn’t even on our radar. And it was so far outside of the box of what we thought we would be doing ten months post graduation. And then I watched him dilligently prepare. And we humbly accepted that for at least seven more months we would be living with my parents. We struggled with broken dreams of ministry, career, living situation and timing of plans. Grief crashed over us like waves during a storm, but God held out hope with an answered prayer. His best for us. Even though it was and is still so far from the plans we had made.
I watched my courageous husband weather a storm of rejection and questions as he sought to provide for our family. And I watched him give thanks and solider on being faithful with each step of the process and say yes to God even when it hurt. I learned a lot watching him. I learned a lot about trusting God’s best and believing in his goodness even when circumstances screamed otherwise. I watched my steady husband camp on the Rock and commit to do anything, including apply for jobs that he was over qualified for or start over in a new field for the glory of Jesus. And I watched him do it all with the highest level of integrity and faithfulness.
And I learned that God is good. No matter the circumstances.