25 Years...

(Note:  I started this post Saturday night when the reunion was actually happening.  As often happens, most of the post sat in draft the rest of the weekend as life got a bit busy. :)  I'm leaving the part written Saturday "as is" rather than changing tense, etc.  Today's additions are in green. :))

There's nothing to make you feel old quite like your 25th high school reunion.  Mine is going on this weekend in Conway.   I didn't technically graduate from CHS, due to having started homeschooling at the beginning of my junior year, but the CHS class of 1987 is the closest thing to a high school graduating class I have.  (There was no such thing as a homeschool graduation in those days, at least in our circle!)

When I first saw the date for the reunion, my thought was "Well, THAT won't work!"  Mid-August is crazy around here, with girls with birthdays 6 days apart.  Would I have gone if it hadn't been Birthday Week?  Who knows. :)  

Has it seriously been 25 years??  Gracious.  Let's see...25 years ago, I think I was working at Fu Lin?  And maybe about to start working at TableGrace?  Daddy was working in MO, and we had been trying to sell the house in Conway for almost a year.  We were still living there, and Daddy was driving to MO early on Monday mornings and coming home late on Friday nights.  We were helping start a new church...one of the great experiences of my young adult life. :)  I had just turned down a National Merit Scholarship to go to school in OK, and was instead about to begin classes at the school I'd said I would NEVER attend...UCA (an early lesson in "never say never"!)

I'd turned down the Merit Scholarship because things had gotten crazy in our family and I didn't feel like I could go that far away to school.  With Mother and Daddy's situation up in the air and my grandparents needing attention, I needed to stay close to home.  So...I would live at home, go to UCA, and make frequent trips to Fort Smith.  My plan was that after I got my undergrad degree in Psychology, I'd go straight to grad school and specialize in gerontology.   I planned to someday get married, have children, and homeschool.  I also planned to live in Conway forever and raise my family at Woodland Heights.  

It seems like class reunion time is often a time when people compare their past, their plans, and their present reality.  I found myself doing a bit of that this afternoon when I remembered this was reunion weekend.  At the time, we were out shopping with Bayley for her birthday.  I couldn't help but reflect a bit on my plans 25 years ago vs. life now.  Funny how those high school graduate plans don't always mesh with real life!

Grad school didn't happen.  A career in child protective services (which was the LAST thing I ever expected to do) did.   I did get married, although I certainly never expected to marry someone I met in court and spent my first date with in the ER!  We do have children...four of them...and we do homeschool...although almost none of the details of having children, raising children, or homeschooling have gone according to those long-ago "plans"!  Staying in Conway didn't happen.  I've lived in Fort Smith for 20 years this month!  (And I really can't imagine living anywhere else now.)  And I've had three church homes now since Woodland Heights.  

When I moved here, I joined Grand Avenue...that was where my grandmother was, and she was beginning to have more trouble getting around.  I loved my years at Grand...going to church with my grandmother, singing in choir with people who'd grown up with my parents, and building relationships with some really special people.  

But Billy and I knew that that was not the place for us to raise our family, so we began visiting other churches during our engagement.  We visited, and visited, and visited some more.  We still hadn't found a church when we discovered a couple of months after our wedding that my parents were moving to Fort Smith.  Suddenly we were looking for a church for the whole family!  Just when we were about to give up, a friend of my parents in Conway mentioned a church she had heard of through her parents...who didn't attend there, but who had heard that "one of the staff members homeschools".  

After our first visit, I called Mother and Daddy and said, "I think we've found  a church."  Sure enough, we had.  Oak Cliff has been home and family to us for 16 years.   I cannot even describe how God has used Bro. Kent, Lyndel, Bro. Phil, and Andy to work in our lives over the years.  It would take a book to tell what they and our Oak Cliff family have meant to us.  They've been through a lot with us!   And we with them.  I decided years ago I planned to be there for the rest of my life. :) 

But again, God's plans are not ours, and as of a week and a day ago, we are members of  the sweetest little country church ever and loving every minute of it!  (Well, every minute but the few seconds that seemed like an eternity at the end of my offertory Sunday morning when I couldn't find a right note to save my life, and then the moments I spent feeling like a total doofus because  I simply could not figure out what should have been a relatively simple task for our pastor this week.  Those weren't on the "most-loved minutes" list.  But we're loving all the rest of them! :))   It's been one of those unexpected turns in the road that turns out to be a huge blessing and delight.  We're on the edge of our seats to see what God is going to do from here!

There have been lots of other things along the way that didn't exactly jive with those early "plans".  Unexpected job and health issues over the years.  My dad's sharply declining health over the last five years of his life, and his death from cancer almost 8 years ago.   The birth of our 30-week preemie and her six weeks in NICU.  The crimes perpetrated against two of our children.  An epilepsy diagnosis.  And even still living in this ramshackle little house many years after we had planned to redo and sell it. ;-)   Those are the things you don't write on your "plans for the future" list as a high school senior.  

And yet, God has reminded me over and over this weekend that His plans are always best.  Always.  No matter how traumatic or shocking or just downright crazy they may appear at first to us.  The verses that God kept bringing to mind this weekend...even before I realized it was "reunion weekend"...were these:

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  ~Philippians 4:11-13

This whole last week has been a microcosm of the last 8 years, in a way.  We've experienced some great sadness and loss, and we've experienced some knock-your-socks-right-off-your-feet blessings.  I've had some days where I've struggled massively with anxiety and some days when it just seemed like my heart couldn't hold one more ounce of joy.  Health issues have flared one day and been unusually invisible the next.  There have been days when I've fought tears almost every waking moment, and days when I've laughed so hard my sides and my face hurt.  

Through it all, though, there's been a constant theme...a realization that God has truly given contentment in all things.  Through all the challenges, through all the joys,  I've stopped so many times this week and just breathed one of those big huge deep sighs of contentment.  I have no idea what God has planned for us from here.  I have no doubt that there will be high mountaintops and deep valleys along the way.  I have hopes, and prayers, and dreams, and even some plans...but I am well aware that just as those "25 years ago" plans were far from reality, today's plans may be as well.  

What an amazing blessing to realize that not only has God known every detail of every yesterday and every tomorrow from before the foundation of the world, He actually planned it all, and He has promised that every bit is for His glory and for our good.  

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!“For who has known the mind of the Lord,    or who has been his counselor?”“Or who has given a gift to him    that he might be repaid?”For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. ~Romans 11:33-36

 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. ~ Romans 8:28

No comments: