The Futility of Making Plans

A photo a week throughout 2019: our family, just as we are. 4/52

I’m returning to the Write 31 Days series I started, but never finished, in 2017. Redemptive Motherhood: How My Children Have Changed Me is pretty much a chronological exploration of how we welcomed child after child into our family, and it is a personal goal and longing for me to write down and preserve the rest of these stories. You’re welcome to read the first half of the series, or jump in right where I’m at, beginning with this story of discovering I was pregnant with our third child.

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He was a chunky little fellow with rolls upon rolls filling out his limbs, and a resting stern-face which was pretty funny for a kid of his age. He was just under a year, and his older sister was two and a half years of spunk and wonder, never without her eyes wide open and a few stray curls sticking out in odd directions; a perfect reflection of her wild imagination and quirky personality. It was an especially simple and beautiful time—our young family camped out in a two-bedroom apartment on the third floor of graduate family housing complex while Daddy was living the grad school life. The kids and I lived our own version of it, spending long hours just the three of us trying to pass the time Daddy was at the University without losing our minds. Or maybe that was just me. 

I hadn’t quite figured out how to be out and about with both kids regularly. Logistics were not in my favor. Our front door could only be accessed by stairs, and getting little people, any bags with supplies or groceries, and my tired mama-self up and down those three flights was no small task. We kept a small stroller in the trunk of our little tiny sedan in the distant parking area because we couldn’t store or move a larger stroller between the apartment and the car, and it was in that season that grocery shopping became a family affair because I simply couldn’t do it—with the kids—by myself. I hadn’t yet figured out how to pack a reasonable-size bag of toddler supplies and snacks that could just live in the car, or easily sling over my shoulder, so we mostly stayed home. 

I have sweet memories of those days, but I also remember being bored out of my mind, longing for connection, intellectual stimulation, or any small escape from the mind-numbing mom-of-toddlers-stuck-on-the-third-floor thing I had going on. 

Everything felt hard. 

Life on a graduate school stipend in an expensive city is not exactly a recipe for financial success.

We were thrifty and economical, spending exactly zero unnecessary dollars, mostly because we didn’t have any. We had food, and our cozy little home, each other…and not much else. 

We had every intention of waiting a few years before trying to have another baby. We had one boy, one girl, and it was the first time of many we would have an even boy-girl split, the picture-perfect family and according to some, many sensible reasons to not have any more children. Given the length of the grad program we were there for, we discussed savoring life with our two fun little people, finishing school, and then—maybe later down the road—we might have one or two more kids. once we were settled and on a profitable career path. It’s funny to think about it now. 

I would say, I was generally happy with how things were going. It felt stressful to navigate the needs of a blossoming family, but we had a plan, and at the time, I put a lot of hope in that plan.

Somewhere in mid-February 2009, I slipped into a funk. I was exhausted, feeling kind of blue, and unable to shake a stewing, brewing, smoldering frustration with life. I shared with a friend that I was really struggling to find motivation to even move.

“Are you pregnant?” she asked. 

“No way,” I said without hesitation. Pregnancy was the last thing on my radar, and we had been very actively and carefully avoiding it since my cycle had returned.

“Are you sure?” she repeated, and I am pretty sure I looked at her like she had two heads. 

I was really sure—until I saw the pink lines that proved otherwise.

I could not believe it. I didn’t want to believe it. I was seized with fear about how we would survive, as we were already spread as thin as I could imagine. I questioned why God would allow such a preposterous thing to happen at this juncture of our lives. Didn’t He know we were at our max for the season? Didn’t He know we had a really great plan to do this…later?

For several months, I wrestled with the reality of having a third child well before we planned to. I was eager to welcome and love the child, but not too happy about the timing, and not too sure how on earth we would manage.

As I look back on that season, I can see exactly what God was up to. 

He was giving us the very best surprise of our lives. That child remains a delight and a gift in the greater dynamics of our family, and that pregnancy tipped off a number of dominos that led us to wrap up grad school early, move back to the Pacific Northwest, and so many other details that have unfolded beautifully in our lives since that time. 

“The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”
~Proverbs 16:9

I still like to make plans. Having a plan helps me sort out a sense of vision for where I’m headed, and a sense of peace in knowing that when decisions fall in my lap, I’ll know how to navigate them according to plan. But I am much more comfortable than I once was with the reality that many things are out of my control. As I’ve seen blessing after blessing unfold in our lives, I have become convinced that control is overrated…sometimes the ride, the surprise, and the unexpected bring about better things than I could have imagined. 

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1491. generous wise input on a shift in direction, 1492. a lemon gift, 1493. (multiple) rooms full of sweet friendships, 1494. collaborative brainstorming, 1495. dental cleaning, 1496. hand-me-down baby boy clothes, 1497. outsourcing chores, 1498. clarity, 1499. homeschool planning, 1500. the abundance of comfort in Christ

Now Reading
April 22, 2013
The Generous Parent
December 7, 2016
Watercolor
November 16, 2015

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