While I didn’t have a so-called “plan” for my life, I had a few aspirations when I was younger: graduate from college (check), get a good job in a fabulous city (double check), travel to Europe (double check), and hopefully one day find the man of God’s choosing, get married, and start a family. Yes, I’ve been blessed. I didn’t need those life events to be happy and content, by any means. Deep down, it would be the last three things on the list that ultimately meant the most.
When I was in my early 20s, women were encouraged to start careers and to find satisfaction in working and providing for ourselves before we married. In my case, that’s exactly what happened, but not because I had this lofty career goal to reach before I married. But God had a plan, you see. It was good for me to be on my own for a period of time, and I loved living and working in Dallas, Texas. But while a number of girls in my high school graduating class were becoming grandmothers in their mid-30s, I was barely starting my family.
I gave my life to Jesus Christ at a Christian summer camp when I was 13. One of the things I learned is that the Lord will guide us through this journey of life to bring about His perfect will. We just need to push aside our wants, needs, and our stubborn will (that one can be difficult for me sometimes), and allow Him to take control. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, right? He loves us and always wants the best for us. The key is this: it’s in His time and His way. One of the aspects I love most about being a believer is the way in which God works! And how He does that is often so far and above what we could ever expect.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
So, yes, I did achieve those goals on the “short list” for my life. HOWEVER, the Lord certainly kept it interesting with many unexpected twists and turns along the way! Believe me, my journey wasn’t without my share of mistakes, heartaches, and bad choices.
One of the best personal examples of when life doesn’t go according to plan is my personal love story with my husband, Jim. This isn’t your typical boy meets girl story. But, through it all, I hope you’ll see the clear hand of God in our relationship. Please forgive the impersonal asterisks to outline our relationship, but this is the best way to tell the story as concisely as possible. Hold on tight because you might get a little dizzy!
*I finished college a term early and moved to Dallas, Texas where I did not know a soul; I was either crazy, independent, or both. After a couple of years of living and working there, I met a girl named Susan through a mutual friend from a Bible study and immediately recognized her voice as the friendly woman from a courier service (remember those?) my law firm often used. Even from our brief phone conversations, I liked Susan immensely.
**Susan and her fiancé, Marshall (a Dallas Theological Seminary student), set me up on a blind date. They prayed about the guy they wanted me to meet. Both came up with … Jim Durgin, another seminary student. He’d sworn off blind dates (this after a date with a runner-up in the Miss Texas beauty pageant!). And I was very resistant and skeptical. We went out with the group but later shared snacks and private conversation at TGI Friday’s for over three hours.
**First “real” date was a formal banquet. Jim wore a midnight blue tux—6’2” tall, dark haired, seriously handsome. When I heard his gorgeous tenor voice…infatuation! Then I discovered I was his third date in as many nights. Okay, then…
**We went out together periodically (dinner and the movies) as “just friends” for well over a year. Yes, he drove a bomb of an old station wagon similar to Sam’s old bomb of a station wagon in my debut novel, Awakening (loosely based on our own story). In fact, it actually wasn’t until several years later that I realized all the parallels between that book and our real life love story.
**Infamous Red Lobster date. Jim questioned my spiritual condition. I ran away. He was right. I was hurt. He attempted contact. I ignored. That was my “real life” version of a modified scenario in Awakening when Lexa ran away from Sam in downtown San Antonio and found herself in a bit of trouble (but then stuck it out in the missions camp with him).
**Jim traveled to Europe with a seminary singing group and wrote novels on postcards. He explained. I read, I cried, and then I tossed them in the fireplace (yes, I’ve always regretted it). This was the shortened version of what happened in Awakening when Sam goes off on a year-long foreign mission.
**I slid my Ford Mustang partially beneath a moving semi-truck one morning near downtown (a no fault accident). I walked away with glass hanging in my hair but praising God for His protection and giving me a calm head in emergencies (refer back to last month’s post for a completely different type of emergency).
**Joined a “Free to Be Thin” Christian diet group (back when I was at my thinnest ever in my life—go figure). I had the book but needed the workbook and remembered Jim worked at the seminary bookstore. Ordered the workbook and said, “Tell Jim I said hi.” Jim (“J.D.”—everyone went by initials in the days of the original Dallas TV show, you understand) waited for me when I picked it up a week later. With that irresistible smile, handsome as ever.
**We dated for a few glorious romantic weeks. Infatuation turned into love but where could it lead, really? He was leaving Dallas after graduation. Jim invited me to his graduation. Even his parents couldn’t attend. I waffled and felt horrible almost immediately after I told him I wasn’t sure if I would go. Although I was confused, I needed to go to the ceremony so he’d know someone was there for him. Huge church. I stopped and said a quick prayer…and the Lord led me straight to him (it helps that Jim is tall). Against the odds, we decided to try dating long distance.
**Unexpectedly lost my job at the law firm (the one thing anchoring and keeping me in Dallas) the very next morning. I never questioned it and had a peace about it. How things can change overnight!
**Jim accepted a ministry job in Visalia, California (a small, agricultural community in the San Joaquin Valley). I moved back home for a few months, worked temporary jobs, and regrouped. Hang in there with me because this is where it gets really interesting…
**My Mom and I had already scheduled a European vacation. Lots of terrorism in Europe that year. We cancelled the trip last minute; our travel agent “happened” to get us onboard a fully-booked cruise ship (because her other clients had cancelled the booking).
**Met a woman and her two children on the ship…from Visalia, California. Wow!
**I’d always detested it when a woman “moved for a man,” but one phone call changed my perspective completely. The lady from the cruise ship? Her wonderful, generous husband offered me a job in Visalia. That was a clear sign to me, so I started packing.
**Moved from Indiana to California.
**Engaged on Valentine’s Day 1987 in Carmel, California; “Anonymous” (and probably forever anonymous) paid for my diamond engagement ring.
**Married on Jim’s birthday in September 1987 (he’s never forgotten his anniversary).
And now, nearly 29 years later, here is a photo of Jim holding our granddaughter, Amelia (now a year old). The journey continues, and with the Master at the helm, what a journey it will continue to be!
Coming up next month, I’ll share my journey to publication. Like this story, that one has several twists and turns as well, and it clearly shows the hand of God at work in my life.
FREE BOOK: The prequel to my Lewis Legacy Series, Prelude, is FREE today only on Amazon Kindle! So jump on over there (after you read this post) and grab your copy if you haven’t read it. Set in 1962 small town Texas, Prelude is the sweet love story of my Lewis family patriarch and matriarch, Sam Lewis and Sarah Jordan. A story of following your dreams and allowing the Lord to guide you (so it fits the same idea as in this post, you see!). I had a lot of fun with the hair and clothing styles of the 1960s while writing Prelude, and I hope you’ll fall in love with Sam and Sarah as they fall in love with each other!
If you’ve stayed with me and are reading this paragraph, I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift card. To be eligible, please share about a time in your life when God stepped in to accomplish something amazing in your life! I would love to hear about it. I will choose a winner by noon tomorrow (Saturday, March 5th), so leave your comment today!
*This post is a modified version of a special guest blog for my author friend Beth Vogt’s “When Life Doesn’t Go According to Plan” Series in 2013.