This weekend, I went home.
Not my actual home in Holland, or my parent’s home in Jenison, but to Camp Geneva, the place where I spent weeks each summer as a child and three summers straight as a college student. For the past three summers, I’ve returned as either a chaplain or a volunteer (or both!), and it continues to be one of my favorite places. This weekend, I was the chaplain for Winter Camp, a short 36-hour jammed packed retreat with 4th-6th grade students. It was a wonderful whirlwind, and I came away with great memories and lessons learned.
During the last talk that I gave on Sunday morning, I was speaking to the kids on adventure, and how a life with Christ can always be an adventure even when it doesn’t seem like it. I shared that you don’t need to be famous or travel far away to do something unknown or exciting, and that we can have plenty of adventures here in the places that God has created us for. I shared how my first summer as a staff member at Geneva in 2009 was an exciting time for me, but before I went for orientation, I had a panic attack that I wouldn’t know anyone there, and that I was actually going to go live away from home for 3 months, the longest I had ever lived anywhere but with my parents. If you know me well, you’ll know that the summer 0f 2009 was one of the best I’ve ever had, and it changed my life for the better in so many ways. I also shared how seminary, the hardest three years of my life and some of the most stressful times I’ve ever had, was something that I did not want to do but felt called to over and over and over again, and that my fear of public speaking is now being used by God to talk to countless kids and adults each week.
As I was sharing these two stories, a little girl in a pink and black sweatshirt raised her hands from the front row. I had been answering questions through out my other talks, so when I finished the point I was making, I called on her. She did not ask a question, or make a random comment, but instead said something so simple and powerful:
“So, it was almost like God took all of the plans that you had and changed them into better plans that He had for you instead!”
It took a lot for me to keep talking after that, because I was so blown away by the wisdom of this little one to see straight through my stories and into the heart of the matter. I had great plans for myself – working at camp, being a psychologist, working in clinical studies and someday being a doctor – but those have all changed. Yes, I did work at camp, but nearly for as long as I wanted or in the roles that I thought I wanted. Yes, I majored in Psychology, but found my true love in religion classes and seminary. No, I’m not a doctor, and I’m a pastor (and writer and public speaker and counselor), which is the farthest from anything I ever dreamed of for myself.
Looking back, I can see God’s fingerprints in all of these things. No, my time at camp in college was not exactly what I thought it would be, but it helped me to find my love for younger kids and my trust in God’s plans being different than my own. No, college did not go how I planned, but I found two fields of study that I loved and met my husband and many dear friends. No, seminary was never in the plan, but the struggle through it helped me find a love for the Bible and for writing. And no, being a children’s pastor was never in the plans, but man am I good at my job, and I love it more than I ever thought I would.
So yes, as it took a little girl in a pink sweatshirt to remind me of, God did take all of my plans and change them into something better. Yes, He did have this path mapped out for me, and I’m sure there were good laughs along the way when I tried to do things myself and ended up in the exact spot that I was supposed to be in the whole time. And sometimes, in the time of year when I need little pick-me-up’s the most, retreats come along that give me time to rest and read in my favorite place and talk about the verse that I didn’t know I even needed, Exodus 9:16 – “But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” This purpose is the greatest plan that I could ever hope to live in to, whether I know it or not (and whether I like the path it takes to get there or not!)
I hope something comes along for you, dear reader, that reminds you of your purpose here. That reminds you that you are how you are, where you are, for a very very good purpose that God has for you. That someone or something stops you in your tracks and reminds you that there is a plan, and that the God who wrote them has one just for you. And even if it’s different from ours, and contains the unknown and the exciting, it is a far better adventure than we could ever write for ourselves.