This blog is most often used for Harper updates, but this week we’re shaking things up a bit as we’ve had other big things… happy things… going on in our family.  We spent this past weekend celebrating the head of our household as he graduated with his Masters of Divinity from Liberty University- and that was a big deal.

You see, when I met my husband many, many moons ago, I never would have imagined us being where we are today.  We were both kids with our own plans and agendas, and we were both believers, but God had a lot of work to do in each of us.  Over the years there was an ebb and flow of surrendering to God’s work in our lives and fighting against God’s work in our lives.  We both had battles going on that no one knew about, and that made for some rocky roads as we started a life together.

In 2011, as we were coasting along, doing life, and thinking we were doing a good thing by including God in our plans, Kirby came to me and told me he felt called to join the military as a reservist.  We both had careers, we had a home and a family, two daughters to raise… it seemed like an insane proposition.  But I could sense his urgency in following through with where he felt the Lord was leading, so we became a part-time military family.

I had no idea the journey we were embarking upon.  I knew we would face challenges, but I didn’t know that God was in the process of turning our lives completely upside down. We spent the first part of 2012 separated as Kirby went off for training.  And it was in that separation that God began to do big things in each of us… hard things, painful things, things I did not enjoy.  God revealed sins that had long since been hidden, because revelation is necessary for redemption.  It was a time of pruning and stripping away and finding ourselves at rock bottom so that God could bring forth a new thing.

And that He did.  As I struggled with His plan that was so contrary to my plan, He continued to bring beauty from ashes, showing me that He was working things together for good.  We added our third daughter to our family, further proof that He alone is the one in control.  With her, I once again lost sight of all of my plans as we had to face life and death and feel pain that we had never experienced before.  We were forced on our knees in prayer, forced to surrender as things slipped further and further beyond our own control, forced to be a team of three- husband, wife, and God.  Being stretched and pushed doesn’t always feel good, but when it comes from the Lord, it’s for our good.

It is truly amazing what God can do with a heart surrendered fully to Him. We spent years living in this limbo of giving God parts of ourselves, but not all of ourselves.  We allowed Him into areas of our lives, but not our entire lives.  And we made our plans and tried to work Him into those plans without seeking His plan.  But He didn’t give up on us, refusing to let us settle for our own agenda.

This weekend, I sat in a gymnasium with other families as the military graduates of Liberty University were recognized.  The floor was full of men and women in uniform, brave people who are willing to sacrifice everything for others.  A chaplain spoke to the crowd, and he shared one phrase that stuck with me over everything else… “God doesn’t want to be included in our plans.  He wants us to be included in His plan.”

How true that is.  God isn’t concerned with my agenda.  I spent so many years thinking I had it all figured out, of working toward my own goals and mapping things out in my own finite wisdom.  And time and time again, my plans faltered and failed.  My vision for the future didn’t look anything like the life I am living now.  But He had greater plans in store.  

The process has been painful at times, and there are days that it still hurts and doesn’t make sense to me… but all of those moments point us to an awesome God who has all things in His control for His plan and purpose.  All of the struggle and the ache brings glory, not to me, but to the One who carries me.  So often we quote Jeremiah 29:11… “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” But do we really take note of the meaning?  He doesn’t say that He knows the plans we have for ourselves, or that He’s going to work our plans out for our good.  He is the one with the plan, and He alone is our future and our hope.

At the close of the final ceremony we attended this weekend, we watched as all of the graduates of the School of Divinity gathered at the altar with their professors.  It was a sea of caps and gowns, tassels and cords- symbols of great human achievement- kneeling before a Mighty God as they laid hands on one another and prayed over this next chapter of their lives, surrendering themselves to His calling to be salt and light, to spread the Gospel, and to further the Lord’s kingdom.  All of those men and women, my husband included, gathered together to commit to God’s plan… a beautiful, powerful moment.

I am so humbled that the God of the universe saved me from my plan and delivered my family into His plan.  I am grateful that He never gives up on us, and that He can redeem and restore the most hopeless of situations.  I am thankful that His perfect plan of salvation reaches down to even the most vile of sinners, and that His miraculous, life-changing, transforming, turn-your-world-upside-down power exceeds and overcomes our humanness.  We serve a mighty God.

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