One Step at a Time

I’m a planner. Ask my friends and family. I like to know where I’m going and what I’m doing. I like to have it all organized and planned out so that I can get as much done as possible. Knowing what plans I have or events are on the calendar helps me figure out what else I can get done.

But I’m learning that I don’t have to have it all planned out. When I have a really defined long-term plan, I get too far ahead of myself. I get too far ahead of God. I reach a point where I no longer need to rely on Him for provision.

Instead, I fool myself into thinking that I have everything worked out for a while, all my needs provided for. Things inevitably don’t go the way I planned, of course, often causing a whirlwind of futile attempts to set everything to rights by my own strength. But the things in my life, right or wrong, are beyond my control sometimes.

In order to get me to open my eyes to the fragility of my plans, emptiness of my dreams, and selfishness of my heart, God allows me to encounter situations that challenge my self-sufficiency, reminding me that I can’t rely on my own plans and provision.

When our landlords told us they were moving ahead with the construction plans for the house this fall, my roommates and I were taken by surprise. The timeline had been shortened more than we had expected, and we were left with more questions than answers as we began to survey our options.

I kept telling myself we had plenty of time to find something, since we were planning on renting again, and postings didn’t go up too early in advance. I also knew from previous experience that it’s hard for me to be content with my current surroundings when I have a new place that I’m looking forward to. I get too far ahead of myself, dreaming about what I’m going to do with the new space, forgetting about the place and people currently around me. I wanted to steer clear of that this time, making sure I didn’t let the glittering allure of the next stage of life detract from my enjoyment of the place I was already in.

I knew God would provide a place, and as things seemed to move at a snail’s pace while the days flew by at warp speed, it was a comfort to know that we had a back-up plan of moving back in with our parents. But my sister and I recognized how inconvenient that arrangement would be for everyone involved. We trusted instead that we would come across the right place at the right time, even if it meant loosening our expectations and learning through trial and error, both of which we did by the time the search was over. But we knew we had to be faithful, trusting in His timing, knowing that He’s never late and seldom early. He provides for our needs for today, not all of our needs for every day all at once. He doles them out in smaller portions to keep our eyes trained on Him, to keep us close to Him. And, boy, did we have to stay close to Him during this experience, taking things just one step at a time.

My sister and I just signed a one-year lease for an apartment not too far from where we’ve been living. But I have absolutely no clue what life looks like beyond that. It’s a blank slate. No five-year plan for this planning-happy girl. That’s both exciting and frightening for my Type-A brain, but I’m trying to wrap my head around it. It’s an adventure. It’s my adventure. It could go in any number of directions from here. And that’s a beautiful thing.

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

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Adventure is Out There

Safety will always be appealing to me, I think. I like the comfort of familiarity, the ease with which I can move through routines. But there comes a point at which I need to step outside of my comfort zone and challenge myself to live life beyond the confines of my habits, lest I become complacent.

I am planning a trip to Europe with my best friend, and I couldn’t be more excited for it. Along with my excitement comes some nervousness, but I’m okay with that. I am embracing the fact that no matter how much we plan for this trip, unexpected things will come up. We will learn how to face them together, and we will become better people and better friends for it.

I don’t yet know where exactly we will travel to within Europe (there are just so many amazing options!). But I know that we will experience new cultures, see new things, taste new things, do new things, and come back with a greater appreciation for God’s creation. Of course, I know the world does not revolve around me or our American culture, but it will be an entirely different experience to see how people in other countries live, and come back with new perspective. I know my worldview, approach to relationships, eating, cooking, business, communication, transportation, rest, work, time, and more will be challenged, and I sincerely look forward to having my world rocked by this experience.

This trip is going to be such a magnificent adventure. Not only will it take me outside the borders of my home country (which I have never done before), educating me about the history and culture of various other nations, but it will be the stepping stone to my future. This really is just the beginning. With my debts paid off, I will be free to pursue my dreams wherever I wish. I could move to California, Connecticut, or Cambridge. I could volunteer, work for a non-profit, work from home, start my own business, or work in another office. The opportunities are endless.

And yes, that is kind of scary. I’ll admit it. When faced with the abundance of options I have, it seems a bit overwhelming at times. But it also is incredibly exciting and empowering. I am wholeheartedly seeking guidance and wisdom as I begin dreaming for this next chapter of my life, knowing that I am given this freedom for a reason. I am being entrusted with it, to use it wisely and not foolishly, to benefit more than just myself. I don’t know yet what that looks like, but just the idea of using my life, my passions, my skills, and my time to make a small difference in some corner of the world makes me smile.

I have wanted for so long to feel like I have the capacity to make a difference, but I always let something hold me back from acting on it– school, fear, debt, obligations (whether real or perceived). I now am choosing to let go of the weight of those commitments and step into whatever this next season brings. Life is waiting. And adventure is out there.

It’s a Wanderful Life

Now, I know what you’re thinking– Jess, you mean “wonderful,” right? No, I don’t. Yes, life is wonderful. But this season of life is very much about wandering, discovering purpose, passion, skills, and opportunities to pursue those things. So life is wanderful.

It dawned on me recently that the last five years of my life have each looked different in at least one pretty big way, if not more. I haven’t lived in the same place or with all of the same people for more than a year at a time. My work and daily routines have also been different, although the changes while I was in college were more subtle.

Up until college, my life was pretty stable. My family only moved once, when I was eleven. Until I graduated from college, I had lived about half of my life in each of the houses my parents bought, which were only twenty minutes apart in the suburbs of the Twin Cities.

51147c09829ba.preview-300I moved from the Twin Cities to La Crosse, Wisconsin for college. The three-hour distance did me some good. It made me start over and learn to do things myself. But even in college, things changed yearly. I lived in different places (two residence halls and then a house off campus), with different roommates, and I worked in different places (my residence halls and then our student union) with different people each year.

After graduating, I moved home and lived with my family for about a year. During that time, I searched for jobs, worked part-time for a while, and started as a temp with the company I now am a permanent employee with. Then I moved into a house with some of my best friends, and we’ve been together for just over a year.

As someone who craves stability, I am surprised with how much change there has been intertwined with the major components of my life over the last few years. I have traveled back and forth countless times to La Crosse to visit friends of mine who are still there, and until recently, I was plagued with the unanswerable question of why I left. This last time, however, I came to see with astonishing clarity that my life is no longer in La Crosse. The city is beautiful, the people are wonderful, and there are many memories that will forever be associated with that beloved city, but my heart and my life aren’t there anymore. Realizing that was so freeing.

I’m not sure where I want to be going forward. I know I won’t be in the Cities forever, but I don’t yet feel pulled to a specific place elsewhere. I am currently working on putting together travel plans for this time next year– plans that will take me on a grand adventure Travel-Accessories-2560x1055overseas. Beyond that, life is like a blank slate. I don’t know where I’ll end up, what I’ll be doing, or who I’ll be doing it with. And I’m learning to accept that in all its beautiful confusion.

If I had it all planned out, I would be too tempted to make it happen on my own, leaving God out of it. And I would suffer because of it. I need Him to walk with me, to guide me, to bring about things that are far greater than I could even imagine if I were the one planning my future. And until I feel compelled to put down roots somewhere and declare it home, I will continue wandering through this wonderful, wanderful life, enjoying the scenic route that my Heavenly Father has plotted out before me.

Will you join me?