I hate feeling lost. It really is one of life’s most stressful experiences for me. It rarely happens these days thanks to the all-knowing car lady, as my kids like to call my navigation. But still, when I miss a turn or the GPS signal goes out on me, the stress level starts to rise in me.
So as you can imagine detours are not my favorite thing.
I am just about 2 years into the biggest detour of my life, metaphorically speaking. Our Lily Joy very unexpectedly graced our lives almost 2 years ago and while there have been many moments of joy in the last 2 years, this is not the road I thought I’d find myself on. This is not the journey I planned out for myself. These are certainly not the coordinates I plugged into my life GPS.
I cannot tell you how many people told me when we found out we were having a fourth child, “Oh, I hear after 3 kids, having a 4th kid is no big deal.”
Well friends. They. Are. Lying. Clearly the people spreading these rumors have not had 4 children! Life with 4 kids is louder, crazier, and more complex. There are four times the needs that require attention at any given moment, four times the pair of hands to undo whatever you’ve just done, four times the mouths to feed, four times the tongues to talk back to you, and four times the wills to assert themselves.
And going back to the baby/toddler stage, well you totally forget how exhausting and self-sacrificing that stage can be. I mean, you forget how utterly exciting it is when you child can finally wipe their own butt without your help… until you are wiping one again.
One of the realities I finally named this summer with four kids at home is that I am a contemplative introvert with 4 kids. Just think about that for a moment from an introvert’s perspective if you aren’t one… and for all you introverts out there, I’m sure you feel me! I feel overwhelmed and overstimulated most of the time with 4 kids who wake up between 6 & 6:30 am when I am desperately trying to eke out some quiet time in the dawn hours of the morning. For this girl who longs for silence, I end up just laughing at the irony of how many of my kids have really “BIG” voices!
And it’s not just the 4 kid thing, but a 4th kid at 40… well that wasn’t in the plan either. I feel old. I felt pushed to the max by 3 kids, but 4 kids took both me and my hubby over the edge. We aren’t spring chickens anymore. 😉 I will be 46 when our Lily Joy enters Kindergarten. My mom was 46 when I, the youngest of two in our family, entered High School.
I’d like to say that I embraced the news of a 4th child at 40 with a sense of calm and excitement. But it was more like panic.
I felt like I was fumbling around trying to find myself on the map. I felt completely lost and was scrambling to figure out where things went off course! Like when my GPS signal goes out on me, I panicked! How had I veered off the path I had planned for my life?!
Maybe your life detours are not having more children than you planned, but fewer than you planned. You had imagined more life and noise in your home that seems all too quiet. Maybe your life detour has been waking up at 40 and realizing you haven’t accomplished the things you thought you would at this point in your life. Maybe it’s been the heartache of the longing to get married that hasn’t been met. Maybe it is being married but you wake up each day next to your person and you forget why you say yes to them.
We can all probably share stories with each other of those moments when our life veered off the path we had planned for ourselves. Though the details of our stories may be different, we can all probably shake our heads with understanding at the sense of feeling lost and confused when you planned to go left and suddenly life went right.
6 months in to this four kid thing, I remember a moment when I was feeling this way… feeling like life had veered off sideways. Lily Joy isn’t the only life detour I’ve experienced and when I take them all in it is easy to feel completely disoriented. The image that came to mind was of me driving in a car, looking down at a map, wondering how I had gotten on this road. I was trying to backtrack my way, trying to make sense of the new coordinates. But then I heard these words:
Look up! Look up Janise! This isn’t the road you planned for your life, but the view from here is beautiful!
I can’t remember what was happening in that moment, but I’m sure it included my Joy Baby flashing a smile at me. I heard those words and it hit me. No this is not the path I chose for myself, but if I stop worrying about how I got off course and started looking around, there are some pretty amazing things to see here. The view is pretty spectacular, even though the landscape isn’t what I thought it would be.
That’s not to say there aren’t days where I feel the steeper terrain of the road I travel. It is a harder climb in many ways. It definitely has it’s low spots, but the highs are pretty fantastic too!
And the truth is, while it may have been a detour in my plans, it was never a detour in God’s plans. This was always the path he had planned for me.
We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9
God is our Good Guide on this journey, the GPS Navigation system that holds us true to his good intentions and purpose for our lives.
Friends if you hear nothing else, hear and leaning into this truth: God is leading you on this path where you find yourself and his leadership is thoughtful, wise and utterly reliable, even if we don’t always understand it.
But I also understand how those unexpected detours in our plans can be hard. If I could friend, I would sit down over a cup of coffee and listen to you and your story and say to you, “That is really hard. I hear your disappointment. I hear your confusion.” And if you needed it, I’d hand you a tissue and just let you cry a bit, because sometimes we need to cry over these unexpected detours that disorient us.
And after a good cry, I would also say…
Wherever you find yourself on this journey of life, may I encourage you to lift your eyes up from that map where you are trying to figure out where things went wrong, and look up! Look up and notice where you are! The road may not be what you planned, but I bet it has some pretty spectacular views!