A plan. There’s always been one.
Bold and bulleted
Red and re-read
Punctuated with passion
Dotted with dates.
I got pregnant several months ahead of Plan A. After feeling completely trapped for a couple of days, I headed for the Infant Department in Target. Because – cute baby clothes. Plus, I needed to get over myself really fast. I picked up What to Expect So You Can Be Absolutely Prepared For Everything, and got down to business. Acclimating to Plan B.
A spring due date will be much more pleasant than late summer. I’ve always wanted to be perfectly pregnant at Christmas, no fewer than five months, no more than 7. It’s only a couple of months ahead of schedule, I guess all of life can’t go according to plan.
My plan for life.
Dashed with dull lead.
Ribboned in loopy letters.
Scrawled in invisible ink.
The idea that we would be three started to sink in and I scheduled a trip to the doctor. As an act of rebellion against no one in particular, I chose a practice in a larger city an hour away. We didn’t have immediate plans to move, but I had erased my hometown from the blueprints birthing a baby here was never in the plan. Besides, I was certain a new job would take us to Tennessee or maybe South Carolina. Big dreams, I had.
Every arena of life, held a plan.
Every plan, had an outline.
And the most important plan of all, working the plan.
The nurses were sure I had my dates wrong so there was blood work done several times over the next two weeks. I didn’t know enough to understand the implications of all those tests, and after three more visits, my doctor confirmed what the 13-month-pregnant ultra-sound tech had not.
I’m sorry, he said. I thought he meant for running 90 minutes behind, no big deal, I said.
He talked about denial and I was pretty insulted at an accusation I didn’t understand. My husband could see my disconnection and began asking questions, which was a good thing, because when the doctors words began to make sense, I felt like I might fall backward off the table, I didn’t hear another word he said. They handed us a bill and said have a good day.
I’d love to go back and give that poor girl a hug, but she probably would’ve stiffened her shoulders, maybe even taken a step back.
Plan C was another pregnancy immediately, D, more doctors’ appointments. Treatment for endometriosis was E, fertility drugs, F, and 22 months later Plan G arrived, Gage Barkley Holder. He was ridiculously cute for a newborn and I am not even kidding. But I had to begin work on Plan H before we even checked out of the hospital because I looked at that baby and didn’t feel attached to him, not one little bit. Working to attach to a baby? Definitely not in the plans.
There’s a discard pile in the corner.
Stacks of translucent pages indented, outlined, capitalized, and ready for publication, immediate implimentation.
I write them, erase them, start over and take myself far too seriously.
If my first sweet unborn baby was Plan A, you should know that fourteen years later, I’m somewhere in the neighborhood of Plan Quadruple Q.
Miscarriages, career changes, non-existent moves and unanticipated conflict have scratched out plan after plan after plan. I knew that Life could be messy, I just didn’t think that my life would be messy.
Anger is always, always my first response to disappointment. My poor family has backstage passes for the show and believe me, there are serious special effects. During the second act I dive deep inside where the next set of plans begin to unfold. Loss after disappointment after delay after heartbreak and the response, always the same, anger, silence and a new plan.
In some ways, I’m proud of my ability to adjust. I think God initially gave me the ability to help me weather two very difficult decades. It’s no small task to take the plans of life and layer them with enough new fabric, enough extra padding to reveal an entirely different shape. But now, He’s doing some new things. Our seasons of deep and repeated loss are shifting to daily days with a routine that’s new to me and I think my ability to acclimate is morphing into distrust.
Several weeks ago I set out with one more new plan. I want to learn more about the writing process and so I signed myself up to join a book launch team for Jennifer Dukes Lee, an author I admire. The plan was to give up a Love Idol for Lent and write about during the days leading up to her April 1st release date.
While my plan for this gig wasn’t real defined, I do tend to think more highly of myself than I should and I was just sure that I had something valuable to offer to this team. Holy.Cow.Bookgirls. It took me about 2 minutes to realize that I’m way outta my league!
The women on this team are Official Author Girls complete with beautiful websites and I am an Official Hair Girl complete with exorbitant words. I saw the OAG’s beautiful words and took a deep dive into some serious doubt about what business I had contributing my half pence of life experience.
But, God is still God whether I slosh around in self-pity or not. He pulled me right outside of myself with the gentleness of this song and encouraged me that what I have to share is enough because He says so. Amen. All this before I had even read the intro to Love Idol.
I understood the foundation of the book was about holding tightly onto ideas, thoughts and sometimes maybe even relationships that stand in between our relationship with God. And going back to the drawing board over and over to re-map my life is getting exhausting. I mean really, who am I to say that my plan quadruple Q wasn’t God’s plan A in the first place.
And then, because, really, this was an endeavor to help support a book launch, I began actually reading the book. Signing up kind of carries the implication of reading the book after all. (Good grief, I hope I get over myself before 50.) Jennifer has a beautiful ability to cut straight to the issues behind the idols we worship while being easy on the soul and I found myself connecting with every word.
In Love Idol, Jennifer talks about the deep ways she longed for approval. The lengths she went to her in life to secure perfect plans garnering endless praise with the idea that her desire for acceptance could be accomplished from the outside in. Here are her words.
I was an early adopter of the now- popular school of thought that if one wants to achieve her dreams, she should write them down. I was my own life coach. While most girls my age planned slumber parties, I mapped life strategies. I wrote that I would marry a handsome man and birth twins— one girl and one boy— all while managing dual careers as a highly acclaimed psychiatrist and a famous book author. Death would not come knocking until age 105. What I didn’t know then is that life has a way of making its own plans, no matter what you write down.
The pride I had in my plans to join this launch team has taken hit after hit this last week. I was surrounded by gifted, talented women and took a deep dive inside. As if their gifts diminished my existence. Dramatic, but true. I not only wanted to disengage from the group but from the people in my real life. Because the plan I’m on? Quadruple Q, QQQQ? It’s not my favorite. There have been friendships that haven’t gone like I expected and I’ve struggled to find connection in my faith community and feeling like I didn’t measure up to the talent in this group of women seemed like entirely too much with the other things I’m trudging through.
But God reminded me that my job is to reflect Him. And that He transforms and fills up all of the not-enough in my life if I just give him the disappointment and hand over the plans.
You should know, I’m not on the once-a-week-hand-it-over plan. It seems that every minute of my day finds me laying out another 3 point plan to be enough. It’s a battle I’m sure that I’ll fight until death do this world and I part. Because my plans have been the way that I’ve justified my value. When the plans fell apart, my ability to adapt became the new way I measured success. And girls, I’m exhausted. If I want rest, and if I want to continue to reflect who He is, I’ve got smash the Love Idol of my plans. I hope you’ll join me for the journey. I’m so looking forward to finishing the book, here’s what Jennifer has to say about it.
The book shares a lot of my personal journey of seeking approval through my good performances, my insatiable appetite to succeed, and my desire to be “known.” But no two stories are alike. Love idols lurk in so many different areas of life. God wants us to get free from the grip of those idols, but first we’ll need to identify them, giving up on some of the lies we’ve been telling ourselves about ourselves.
I pray that together, we can give up on:
- the inner critic who bruises, the mirror that accuses, and the mental playback that oozes with bad history;
- our knee-jerk response to try to please people;
- the idea that it’s somehow all up to you and me, or that our reputations hinge on our own spotless performance;
- our penchant for self-criticism;
- our fear of trying because we’re afraid we’ll fail when people are watching;
- our inability to fully experience the love of God because we’re waiting for proof from a spouse or a friend that we are worthy of his or her love;
- our longing to feel important;
- our appetite for being “known”;
- our un-gospel notions about pleasing God.
Here’s a hint of the Love Idol she’s smashing for Lent.