“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” ~Proverbs 19:21
My story begins on Friday, August 1st, 2014, at 1:36 in the morning. I stepped out of my car and breathed in the fresh Wisconsin air. After spending two weeks in China on a missions trip, I had forgotten what it felt like to not be breathing in thick Beijing pollution 24/7. I looked up at the stars and the stars looked back at me, like we were old friends saying, “Nice to see you, it’s been awhile.” I did a jump/dance thing and squealed a little. In that moment, I had completely forgotten that I had been up for about 36 hours. Through a two-hour, thirteen-hour, and half-hour plane rides, an hour and a half long car ride from the airport, and many hours of layovers in Shanghai and Chicago, I felt alive. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t eaten anything in the past three days due to stomach sickness and fevers; I had enough energy to keep me going for at least 24 more hours (probably not but I felt like it at the time), because I was finally home.
I didn’t even bother bringing my suitcase I had been living out of for two weeks into the house, I just ran for the door. Per my request, my mother had made me taco dip (with real Wisconsin cheese, something that was very lacking in China), ham pickle roll-ups, and homemade chocolate chip cookies. My mother had waited up for me and have already shoved a pickle in my mouth, I gave her the warmest hug I have ever given. “I’m so happy to see you!” I mumbled through the pickle. It was in that moment that I remembered my favorite Anne of Green Gables quote, “I’ve had a splendid time, and I feel that it marks an epoch in my life. But the best of it all was coming home.”
As much as I wanted to tell my mom every detail that had happened over the past two weeks, she convinced me that I should probably try to get some sleep. Due to jet lag, I was only able to sleep until 7 am. Before going to China, I was a lost soul looking for a calling in life. I entered my senior year of high school in the fall of 2013 with an acceptance letter to Le Cordon Bleu, a culinary school in Minneapolis, MN, with the dream of one day having my own show on the Food Network Channel. I had developed that dream when I started watching stars like Giada De Laurentiis, Paula Dean, Bobby Flay, and Duff Goldman at age 12 rockin’ it up on their own cooking shows. I started my senior year with a new confidence, because for the first time ever, I actually felt like I had my life together.
This new plan I had created for my life (go to culinary school, become a famous chef, meet a guy who would be so blown away by my cooking that he would marry me on site because I didn’t have the good looks to get his attention) died suddenly about two months after I had received the acceptance letter. Our youth pastor Dan had recently announced that the youth would be going on a missions trip to China in July 2014. It had been a long journey for my friend Carley and I when it came to going on mission trips. Two of my brothers had gone on their first missions trips when they were twelve years old, and my sister as well as Carley’s siblings had also gone on missions trips when they were young. The year Carley and I were finally able to go was the year going into our sophomore year (Summer 2011). This also happened to be the year that they decided to move the age limit up. Alas, we were once again too young to go, and our dreams of bringing the gospel to the ends of the earth would have to wait. Two years later, another youth missions trip was planned for Ecuador. However, it was not in God’s plan for any of us to go. The plan ended up falling through, and once again, Carley and I were left waiting for the day we could finally do what we had been dreaming of doing since we were little. Later that year was when they announced the China trip. The only problem was, the trip was scheduled for the end of July, several weeks after classes started for Le Cordon Bleu. It didn’t take me long to get over that fact that my life long dream of going on a missions trip wasn’t going to happen. After all, I had other things to worry about, like applying for financial aid and scholarships (because that’s obviously more important than serving God in Communist China). After telling my youth pastor that I was not able to go because of college, he looked me straight in the eye and said “Don’t go.” (As in, don’t go to culinary school). Those may be two simple, little words, but for some reason they had a huge impact. I tried to say something back, but I honestly couldn’t think of anything, so I just shut my mouth. It was like God was giving me a slap in the face, which was apparently what I needed to realize that I was going in the wrong direction. The next morning I called my best friend Katie and asked her to meet me at school early. She sat next to me in my car why I explained to her, through much pathetic sobbing and tears, that I didn’t think God wanted me to go to Le Cordon Bleu and that He wanted me to go to China instead. I wanted to go to Culinary school just as much as I wanted to know what I was going to do after graduation. However, there was something that I desired even more, to follow God’s will.
So there I was, sitting on my bed the morning after coming home from China with an idea. I felt the urge to apply at Southern New Hampshire University for their online creative writing program. My passion for writing started with The Magic Tree House series I read in first grade, and I always knew it would play a large role in my life. But is that what God wants? For me to be a writer? I thought. I didn’t want to make the same mistake I did before, but I could not ignore my idea. This is what I told God: I am just going to go for it, and if it is your will, you will make it happen. It seemed very unrealistic anyways; I had only two weeks to apply, get accepted, register for classes, apply for financial aid, and come up with $2,000.00 to pay for the first term. God provided in amazing ways, and two weeks later I found myself reading and studying The Practice of Creative Writing, Writing Down the Bones, and On Writing Well.
I had spent most of my high school years trying to plan out my life, but it wasn’t until I saw how God worked my schooling out that I realized that it’s impossible to plan. I decided to forget about Culinary school because there was a still small voice telling me that it wasn’t the right path. I decided to apply for Southern New Hampshire University on a whim because there was a still small voice that told me it was the right way to go. I surrendered it all and put it in His hands, knowing that it would either work out or it wouldn’t. I felt peace in my heart that I hadn’t felt with any of the other wild plans I had dreamed up (I left out the part about Human Recourse Management, that random Bible college in Colorado, and even that ranch in Montana) It was when I put my complete trust in God that he told me which way to go.
How should I know?
How should I know what I’m doing with my life?
I don’t have to know,
It’s okay not to.
But they never tell you that,
They tell you that you have to plan it out.
But I don’t want to,
Because that’s not living.
~Madeleine R Hodgett, A Celebration of Poets, 2014 Edition