Trusting God When Plan A Doesn’t Happen
The Inner Drive To Plan
I am a planner. (And that’s an understatement, haha.) I’ve been that way my whole life. I LOVED the day we first got our planners in 3rd grade. It was like a dream come true. You mean I could fill this thing out, look ahead at what’s coming, and see what all needs to get done?! I was thrilled! I learned that I had the ability to essentially map out my life!
Anyone else like that? 🙂
I’m the type of planning personality that can drive a more low-key personality crazy when I really get in my planning mode. It’s all those detail-oriented questions. 😉 When will you be home? Do you know how long that event will take? What time do we need to leave for it? Does this date work for us – I know it’s 3 months out. Who will be there? How can I best prepare? Where can I write that down on my calendar?
I think for a lot of us planning types – at least, for me personally – the drive to plan is one part genuine desire to organize and one part fear.
A genuine desire to organize our life is just fine! In fact, it’s helpful, useful, and efficient! I love planning ahead, filling out my calendar, and being aware of upcoming commitments. It makes me breathe a deep sigh of relief to gaze at the month ahead and “know” exactly what is coming.
At the same time, though, I know my planning tendencies sometimes come from a place of fear. If I plan ahead, then nothing can surprise me. If I know what is coming, I can emotionally prepare for it. If I am the one in charge of my calendar, then I am the one in control.
Controlling Fear With My Planner
I’ll admit it: I have a fearful personality. I tend to fear the future and the “what-ifs” rather than to jump with excitement and abandon into the unknown. Fear can be a necessary part of life, and it can keep us out of trouble, but to let fear override the good things in life is unhealthy.
[bctt tweet=”To let fear override the good things in life is unhealthy – trust God!” username=”hannahbeeolson”]
Growing up, I always felt like I feared the future less when I used my planner well, or when I studied the family calendar on the wall. I carried this belief with me into college, spending a lot of time lovingly curating a gorgeous planner full of commitments and to-do lists. While it did help me through an intensive residency-type student teaching experience, which was a good thing, I think it also solidified my belief that I can control fear via my planner.
I still believe that planning and calendars are important and very useful – and I’m not going to stop using mine any time soon – BUT I have a new understanding that I cannot replace reliance on God and HIS plans for me with a reliance on my planner and MY plans for me.
[bctt tweet=”I cannot replace reliance on God and HIS plans for me with a reliance on my planner and MY plans for me.” username=”hannahbeeolson”]
I could write an entire post on control and on letting go, haha! Maybe I will write more about that struggle someday. It sure is a tough thing to deal with. Do you struggle with control, too, friend? I am not outwardly a bossy person, or particularly opinionated in a loud way, but I still love to be in control.
I love to feel in charge of my schedule and my time, but I most especially love to feel in control of my plans.
But life has not always followed MY plans. 🙂 Have you discovered that, too?
Handling Life’s Plot Twists
Sometimes, our Plan As work out just fine! Sometimes, that’s how things work out, and we’re excited and grateful for it. But other times, we prayerfully place our Plan A in God’s hands…and then it doesn’t happen and we end up perplexed or frustrated. I’m writing today’s post as a reminder to myself that regardless of if something is a Plan A or a Plan B to me, God is in control and I need to trust Him for the outcome.
I’ve heard that when a change of plans happens in your life, you should just yell, “PLOT TWIST” and move on. 🙂 I love that, but it’s not as easy to do in the moment. For me, personally, there’s usually some strong emotions involved. Depending on how drastic the change is, my emotions have ranged from pouting or tears all the way to full-blown rage or sickening heartache. It’s hard for me to let go, especially if I held that “Plan A” close to my heart!
Handling life’s Plan Bs is something I’ve been working on for years. I wouldn’t say that the years have completely healed my tendency to have a tight grasp on control…BUT time has given me a special, tender gift of hindsight and perspective.
I’ve learned that when I really, truly, place my life and my desires in God’s hands, then I CAN and SHOULD trust Him with the outcome! I understand it’s easier said than done, but the more I count the ways God has worked in our lives, and remind myself of His goodness, then the easier it is for me to trust Him as I should.
Today’s post is kind of an exercise in that – in recounting the ways God has worked in my life, through what I thought were my Plan Bs. It’s a pretty personal post and I feel vulnerable putting some of these details out there. But I find it necessary and valuable to record it all, for my own faith journey as well as hopefully an encouragement to you!
The Plan Bs In My Life
Not everything in my life has been a Plan B, but the focus of today’s post is to name and rediscover how God has worked through what was NOT my Plan A! The glory goes to God for working out these situations when I prayerfully placed my trust in Him.
Moving from Texas to Minnesota. I first became aware of the idea of Plan B when we moved away from Austin, Texas, when I was nearing the end of 2nd grade. I loved living in Texas for over 3 years and I had close friends there, so moving was a new concept and brought with it new fears. It taught me that in life, things don’t always turn out the way you thought they would! But that’s okay! Because in so many ways, moving to Minnesota changed my life! It altered the trajectory for so many future events. We ended up staying in Minnesota…and my parents are still here in MN, too! I fell in love with this great state – blizzardy winters and all. Had we not moved from Texas to Minnesota, there isn’t a good chance I’d be here, settling into married life and growing a family with my dear Minnesotan husband!
The college search. Applying to and deciding on which college to attend is SUCH a monumental decision! I always knew that there was a chance I’d meet my future husband at college, not to mention it was hugely important because of the education and career training I’d receive, and the doors it could open. College sets off such a significant trajectory in itself.
Well, the time came to apply and after doing my research and narrowing everything down (complete with pros and cons lists), I applied to 7 colleges. I got into 6 of them…but the 7th was my dream school.
I had high ACT and SAT standardized testing scores, but my GPA was what was “hurting” me. It was on the edge of what this dream school wanted. Although it was a good GPA, it wasn’t as high as they wanted it to be, due to the 9 Advanced Placement classes I took in high school.
There are some moments in life you can remember so well! One of those for me was the moment during my senior year of high school that I finally got my letter from that college. Needing to flee the room and be alone, I ran down to the couch in the basement. I remember I first got down on my knees and prayed out loud, “God, you know I want to go to this school, but let your will be done here.” Then I shakily opened the envelope….to discover that I had not been accepted.
I was heartbroken. It really felt like my world had turned upside down – I had built up so many dreams surrounding that school and the big city I’d settle in. The letter reassured me that I could wait until late August to find out that I MAY still get in…but knowing the move-in dates, I knew I’d be cutting it crazily close to try to still get accepted and move there in a matter of days. I considered it a definite “door-closing” and started looking around at my other options. I knew that God had answered my prayer – even if it wasn’t the answer I had been hoping for.
I ended up choosing Bethel University in the Twin Cities, not only based on scholarships, but also based on the faith atmosphere and how AMAZING my overnight visit was! That overnight stay really sealed the deal for me. It turned out to be the perfect decision. I met lifelong friends there, had incredible experiences (extracurricular as well as career training), and met my handsome husband there!
In the end: I don’t regret taking so many college-level courses during high school, because I love how they stretched and grew me, and how they furthered my education. I don’t loathe that former “dream school” of mine, because they’ve decided where their cutoff is and there was nothing I could do to change that. But I was thrilled with Bethel and I am SO grateful for the open and closed doors that led me to my final college choice. It turned out beautifully. I am actually truly GRATEFUL I did not get my Plan A.
My college major. You’d think I’d have had that all planned out, right? Ha. Well, I was originally leaning strongly towards majoring in Business – Human Resources. But in the couple weeks leading up to registration day at Bethel, Elementary Education kept popping into my mind. I don’t even recall all of the specific encounters and conversations I had, but something was just making me think I may want to try majoring in education instead of business.
Come registration day, I was at Bethel with my parents and they had countless tables set up for each major, with their crisp 4-year-plans and academic advisors at the ready. I was torn between heading to the Business table or the Education table, when they made a final announcement – that if you’re even just considering a certain major, then you were encouraged to go to that table today. I felt a firm nudging from God and walked right over to the Education table, bypassing the Business major option. I immediately felt at home with the education professors and got excited about the courses in my 4-year-plan. I remember doing all of the initial registration tasks, then walking back over to where my parents were sitting. I had tears in my eyes when I told them, “I chose Education.” They grinned and hugged me.
Teaching has turned out to be such a great fit for me! It has come with its own set of stresses and changes, but all has worked out well. I’ll share more about that later in this post. But I’m GLAD I didn’t end up with my Plan A of majoring in business!
My relationships. I had two different boyfriends in high school, both of whom were good people, but it just didn’t work out. And looking at how my life is now with Bjorn at my side, I’m so grateful for it. One of the relationships, I took into college with me. I dated him for 2 and a half years, which included all of my freshman year of college and most of my sophomore year. We went to college in different states. I know long-distance can work…but it didn’t for us. Communication and connection diminished over time, and I felt we no longer had the same dreams or drive for the relationship, so I broke it off in the spring of my sophomore year. It was difficult because no one likes to initiate or go through a breakup, but it worked out so well in the end, because it allowed me to trust God more openly with my future relationships…the next of which came from realizing my college friend Bjorn and I had feelings for each other! 😉
Was that high school relationship breakup my Plan A? No. Everyone who takes a relationship with them into college basically hopes that it’ll survive the transition and the years. When I was strongly considering breaking the relationship off, I wandered alone to my favorite hill on campus one day and flopped down under the pine trees. I was praying and telling God that I felt the relationship was over…and I immediately was covered with reassurance and a sense of peace that I was doing the right thing. I broke up with my then-boyfriend that night.
RELATED POST: Our Love Story
Obviously, all the relationship stuff worked out so, so well in the end! 🙂 I am daily blessed by the ways God has made Bjorn and me perfect for each other. I am so grateful that I fell in love with my best friend at Bethel, and that my original Plan A for college relationships didn’t work out.
Oh, and I’m thrilled that my best friend Bjorn grabbed me and kissed me one winter night our junior year! <3 More on that in our love story. 🙂
My job position. I taught 3rd grade my first year of teaching. I LOVE 3rd graders and I think they are amazing, but it was a really stressful year for me. I had 16 boys and 5 girls in my class and I was the only 3rd grade teacher at a small elementary school, which was a lot for a new teacher who was used to planning as a grade level team during student teaching. Add to that the fact that I was planning my March wedding that year, and I was exhausted! I still loved teaching and kids, but I was curious about other options. After my first year of teaching concluded, I saw an open position for a “Title I” teacher and requested to be moved over to that job instead.
Title I ended up being the greatest thing for me! I LOVE being a small group teacher and helping to boost students’ skills in reading and math. It’s a job I feel I’m really good at, because it combines so many things I enjoy doing, and small group teaching fits my personality well. 🙂 It’s also amazing because I get to see something like 40 students a day, and get to know many more students in the elementary school each year than I would have as a classroom teacher. I love having that sphere of influence.
It’s funny, though, because throughout college, my Plan A never would have involved becoming a small group teacher. I thought that a classroom teacher was pretty much the only or “best” option – when there are so many ways to be a teacher and affect children’s lives!
Having a miscarriage.
I’m currently 30 weeks pregnant with our precious baby girl, but she is not our first pregnancy. I got pregnant last October (2016) and in mid-November, we lost that baby. We had only known I was pregnant for a week when I had the miscarriage – a week full of excitement and letting the news soak in, just the two of us. Losing that baby was one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through. It was a difficult winter. No, I was not very far along (around 7 weeks) but I don’t think that matters. A life lost is a life lost. Sometimes you have more weeks or months to get attached, to love on your growing little one, but for me, the full intense swath of emotions still picked me up and swept me along. My husband and I were extremely sad but we leaned into God and His plans – His care for the little one we lost, and His plans for any future children. My husband pointed me towards God’s wisdom, omniscience, and care. While we did come out on the other side, I do still think about that baby. I ache for anyone who has lost their little one at ANY stage. A miscarriage – no matter how far along – is still a loss and it is heartbreaking.
Having a miscarriage is not a Plan A. Our baby would have been due this past July 1st, and that day did not go by unnoticed by me. However, I know that this precious little girl dancing in my tummy right now would not be here if the miscarriage hadn’t happened. Does that mean I’m glad it happened? No, of course not. It is a sadness no matter what. But I can be grateful to God for the gift of this little one and His plans for her life as well. I am trusting God’s plans for our family, even though sometimes hard times come along. We are so thankful for this baby girl and we can’t wait to meet her! All children are a gift from God and are an amazing miracle of creation.
Putting Plan B in Perspective
There are difficult theological things I can only hope to understand someday – and may not until I get to heaven. I don’t know with certainty why miscarriages happen, why some things don’t pan out when all seemed well, when certain puzzle pieces just don’t fit in life, or why unfair things happen. But I know this to be true: that God cares intensely for His children. He is a good God, and while the storms of life may rage all around (and Plan Bs may swirl our own plans right out of the way, too), we know that He has never failed. We can trust Him.
I leaned on a lot of verses from Psalms and Isaiah this past winter. After our miscarriage, I was aching to learn more about God’s character and His promises for His children. I’m listing two of my favorites here. They’re longer because I am trying not to take only one verse out of context, but to really examine the passage. This is powerful imagery and encourages me to lean on my Good Shepherd.
“Here is your God!”
See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power,
and he rules with a mighty arm.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.
“To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.
Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
I’m so grateful for the ways that God has shown His provision and tender care (and His ultimate power!) over the years. There are so many specific situations I can list and be thankful for, and today’s post was just a sampling of them. I know that as the years go on, I will keep seeing how He works and I will keep learning to trust Him along the way.
[bctt tweet=”Regardless of Plan A or what feels like Plan B…God is in control!” username=”hannahbeeolson”]
Today’s post is a reminder to myself that regardless of Plan A OR Plan B, God is in control. I hope that hearing some of my stories has encouraged you! Let’s keep striving to place our unknowns into God’s hands, trusting His goodness in the outcome.
Have you ever had a Plan A fall through? How has a Plan B turned out even better than you imagined? Let’s share our stories of God’s faithfulness!
Hannah this is such a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing it with us! I can definitely relate to the over planning tendencies. It took me a long time to connect that my want for control was tied to fear but it is SO true. I am so grateful that our God always knows what’s coming and always knows what’s best! He’s so generous to prepare us and lead us even when we don’t know where we’re going yet!
Thank you so much, Nina! I am glad to hear that you resonated with it. I really struggle with control but isn’t it wonderful that our God (who is all-knowing and all-powerful) cares deeply for us? Thank you for reading along! 🙂
Hannah, thank you for putting so much heart and thought into this post. I’m so sorry for your loss.
I struggle with control issues, too. I have found that I must surrender my plans to God daily, but it is not easy at all. Some dreams I still hold so tightly in my hands. Right now I feel like God is teaching me to wait on some dreams, and it’s been hard. Ultimately I know that my “plan B” is His “Plan A” for my life.
Thank you so much, Brianna. I’m glad you liked the post and related to it, too. I agree – learning to wait on some dreams has been hard for me, too. I love how we can lean on our God even when we don’t understand! I’m grateful for your thoughts here – thanks for reading!
Thank you so, so much for this post, Hannah. I honestly really needed it today. There are so many Plan B’s in my life that I had not expected but I am so thankful for. Recruiting duty here in Iowa was definitely a Plan B…okay, more like Plan C 😉 but has been a blessing in disguise! Three years with no deployments, 3 years living just 2 hours from some of my husband’s siblings, and 3 years working at a college where I can go to school for free! (I have been wanting to go back for a 2nd Bachelor’s in Business so this is a huge blessing!) I know there is a blessing in disguise with our rental house…. I just need to figure out what yet! At the very least, we aren’t paying out of pocket for housing so that’s nice!
I am so glad to hear that this post came at a good time for you, Bailey, and that it struck a chord with you! It’s so encouraging to hear that you have had Plan Bs in your life, too, that you’re now grateful for! Thanks for sharing that! And that is nice not to be paying out of pocket for housing, even with all the bumps along the road!
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