My Life is Written in Pencil

 

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I have this thing about writing with pencils. I used to write everything with black ink, but the more children I had, the more necessary it was to make adjustments, rearrange, reschedule, and sometime scratch things right off my calendar and to-do list. When I couldn’t stand the mess of changes continually happening in my life, I began to write with pencils; at least with a pencil, I could erase and write in the new plan.

Not long ago I was erasing something off my list and in a moment of frustration the thought crossed my mind, “Well, at least I only wrote it in pencil.” It occurred to me that my entire life is written in pencil, not just the activities for the week – I’m guessing this is true for you as well. We schedule something fun, and a child gets sick. We plan a menu, and somebody eats one of the key ingredients. On a weightier scale, we earn a college degree and never land the hoped-for job. We plan a family and learn we can’t have children. We fall in love with a child we hope to adopt, and it doesn’t happen – or we do adopt that child and our lives are changed in ways we couldn’t imagine.

But making plans is a good thing. Schedules keep me sane, to-do lists help me organize my time, and menus make it possible for us to have a reasonable meal most evenings. Sometimes our plans align beautifully with God’s plans for us, and sometimes we make plans with prayer and wise counsel only to find that God has something else in mind – and that is okay. 

Many of us are familiar with the quote, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”

I have to disagree; God wants us to hope, dream, and plan. He wants us to seek his will; we choose the wisest plan we can and move forward holding it loosely as the future unfolds. We write our lives in pencil being willing to make the changes God asks us to make. 

Sometimes we find ourselves on a winding trail rather than the straight path we had anticipated, yet we still end up at our expected destination. But often in my life, I find the trail ending in a different place altogether, a place I would never have found had I not started out on the trail toward the original destination.

I write my life in pencil knowing that God has already written it in the most sure ink possible. He writes, I follow as best I can, and I trust that the place I end up is right where he wants me to be.

Question: Have you found this to be true in your life? Do you want to share with us?

Encourage one another,

Lisa

 

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

0 Comments

  1. Laine
    September 29, 2014

    Beautifully, beautifully written! I find when I surrender my plans to God, I find more peace and hope when things aren't going the way I planned.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 29, 2014

      Thank you, Laine. I keep learning more and more to hold everything loosely in my hands.

      Reply
  2. Bethany Mullen
    September 29, 2014

    I love the positive spin this takes. My life right now feels like a serious of crushed expectation and challenges more difficult than I thought they would be. We are 10 months into bringing a sibling set (6 and 7) home and I am homeschooling them -which sounds beautiful and lovely on paper but the realities are crushing me. I am coming to realize God must need me to be crushed in order to help these 2 but it is a hard process. Perhaps if I can view my every day with this pencil idea I could feel more hope and less overwhelmed. Thank you for your posts, which are always encouraging to me.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 29, 2014

      Oh Bethany, I know that crushing feeling all too well. Be gentle with yourself and let other people help you; this is a big adjustment. I'm so glad this post encouraged you.

      Reply
  3. Mary
    September 29, 2014

    This is just wonderful Lisa. Thank you for sharing. I was just thinking today (with all that is going on in our world) that life seems more precarious than it used to, but I'm not as afraid as I used to be. That is God's good work. You really put it into beautiful words with this post. I'll be forwarding on to loved ones to read also.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 29, 2014

      Thank you for sharing my post, Mary. I think I'm learning to be less afraid as well. So much has happened in our lives, that I'm not as easily shaken these days. So nice to hear from you.

      Reply
  4. Dinnette Loughrey
    September 29, 2014

    I agree with Laine, this is such a perfect way to look at how God leads us through our lives. I guess if you think about the fact that there are many ways to get to one destination, taking a different path than the straight one just gives you different scenery to enjoy. I'm thankful that God is always with me, even when I'm lost in the woods! Also that he gently guides me back to the path. Thank you for sharing this Lisa, gives me a new perspective on some of the events of my life.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 29, 2014

      You are very welcome, Dinnette. I'm glad my words gave you a new way to look at things.

      Reply
  5. helenhsm
    September 29, 2014

    I say to the Lord "Thank you that things aren't going my way." Because if everything went my way, I get spoiled and entitled and that isn't the thankful, loving attitude God wants me to have. Yes, everything should be in pencil. When I have to miss something I wanted to go to, I take a page from Joyce Meyer, who says, when you get disappointed, get re-appointed. So I try to look for the silver lining in not being able to do what i had planned.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 29, 2014

      That is so encouraging, Helen. Thank you!

      Reply
  6. Hannah
    September 29, 2014

    I love this. I resonate with the words. So thankful for God's leading, trying to live with open and willing hearts. We have started our 2nd adoption process, some say we're crazy, we are simply following where God leads us and trusting He has this all in his hands. Thank you for these words today!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 30, 2014

      Hannah, isn't it the hugest relief to know that God does have us and all of the details of our lives in his hands? Blessings on your adoption process.

      Reply
  7. emily
    September 29, 2014

    Thank you for your encouragement. I have been wrestling with so many of these thoughts and emotions recently, and your post brought up some closure that I have been struggling to find. Thank you for writing bravely and candidly.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 30, 2014

      I'm so glad to hear that, Emily. Thank you for taking the time to share with me.

      Reply
  8. Alyssa
    September 29, 2014

    I'm going to read these again tomorrow when I'm more awake because I need to hear this right now.
    Also, on a practical note-my life is written in Google Calendar! Things are easily changed and I can see when I'm double booked. It's been a really tool for our family and coordinating all our plans.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 30, 2014

      Me too, Alyssa! I tweak my Google calendar every day and I love how easy it is to make changes. I thought about trying to fit that in, but it seemed to mess with the theme 🙂

      Reply
  9. Teri Ferrari
    September 29, 2014

    Lisa this was a great article. It seems I have been having this same conversation with a few young people these days. Great encouragement. It is always worthwhile to erase my plans and let God pencil in His plans. They are way better than the ones that I came up with! God bless. And thanks so much for being there for Carly!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 30, 2014

      Teri, it's so nice to hear from you! Carly blesses me so much — who knew we would both become adoptive mothers. I wish we could all sit down with a cup of coffee and catch up on the last 15 (!!!) years.

      Reply
  10. adventisthomemaker
    September 30, 2014

    I love this entire post and it hits so close to home right now. We've been pursuing an adoption for 15 months and are sure that God put us on this path. However, we're waiting for a report back from the agency in Taiwan to let us know if our girl has agreed to be adopted. She has to sign the paperwork and so far she's been saying no…

    God led us here. We are certain of that. But we're still waiting to find out if the road continues where we expected it to go or if He's taking us down a different road. It's been a very stressful two months as we wait… and wait… and wait… to hear if she will say yes. 🙂 God has been molding me. It's painful but I have to trust He knows what He is doing!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 30, 2014

      That is quite a journey. The one thing we can be sure of is that the Lord is always working and his ways are wiser than ours. I hope the desire of your heart is fulfilled and that if this girl does not become your daughter, he will show you what your next step is.

      Reply
  11. Maureen Reagan Shear
    September 30, 2014

    The year I was 16, was a year that shaped me. It was also the year I adopted my motto, "You make plans, then life happens." My dad used to laugh at me for it, he said he never 'got it'. Then he got bile duct cancer, and he said to me one day he 'got it'.

    It started with an incident 20 years ago this October. I was hospitalized for 6 days, I had Type 1 diabetes and didn't know it until it nearly killed me… literally. On the pediatric floor, it was me an a 5 month old boy. The first night I was there, I heard a commotion in the hall about 2 am, and thought it was about me, and that I was about to be life flighted to a children's hospital (which had been discussed). Just as I had finished the thought, a baby was dropped in my arm by a nurse with the sharp command, "Hold him for a minute." Bewildered, I held a listless, limp, but awake baby as my curtain was quickly drawn, my door closed and a night table slid in front of my door. The baby was taken back by the nurse, and she sat quietly shaking, rocking the baby in the rocker next to me. I listened to what was happening in the hall. The baby's mama was out there. Clearly under the influence of something, demanding to see him. I heard the other nurse and security trying to calm her, saying he was sleeping, please come back in the morning. She left without much more incident. In my remaining 5 days, she never returned. Even by the next morning, I was feeling much better. And I was bored. So I spent a lot of time with Baby Boy. I learned he was losing weight. No matter what they fed him, or how they fed it to him, he fought consuming it, and it didn't make much difference. Day 3, I asked to try to feed him his bottle. The nurses and resident briefly discussed it. They decided technically they shouldn't, but nothing they were doing was helping, so why not? To some people's amazement while others quietly smiled for a reason I didn't get, he ate it. And none of it came back up. And at the end of the day, he had not lost any weight. By the following day, he was gaining and pooping. My last night there, I was somewhat sad because I was missing a football game, and I was in the marching band. I was sitting at the nurses' station with Baby Boy on my lap (by that point, no one cared if I held him even if it was against the 'rules'). I was bouncing him and making faces to make him laugh (when I got there, he never smiled, but I got him doing that as well). The older nurse (maybe early 50s) turned to the young resident (late 20's) and said "See, I told you that only thing wrong with that child was he is dying from lack of love." I froze. The resident froze. The truth of the statement hit me. I knew she was 100% correct. As I continued sitting there making Baby Boy giggle, I came to a conclusion that has guided me through the worst of my days since then. I will never die from a lack of love. My family and close friends will also not die from a lack of love. (Since then, I have revised it to actual lack of love, depression and mental health problems can cause the perceived lack of love that is killing) There is no worse fate for me than that. So no matter what, things can be worse. There are people in this world who are literally dying for a lack of love.

    So no matter how much life happens to my plans, I have love. And that is enough.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 30, 2014

      Wow. Thank you for sharing your story, Maureen – it's remarkable.

      Reply
    2. DFNY
      September 30, 2014

      Maureen, that was so moving…I have tears in my eyes & a lump in my throat. Thank you for sharing such a hard story. I hope that baby found love. What a true and clear statement: "I have love. And that is enough." Thanks again.

      Damaris

      Reply
  12. Sarah Gilcrist
    September 30, 2014

    Lisa, Thank you!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 30, 2014

      You're very welcome, Sarah. I've been pondering that for awhile and it was good to write it down.

      Reply
  13. Molly Kitsmiller
    September 30, 2014

    The thing I find hard is that writing in pencil when things get erased to my kids seems like broken promises when I am unable to follow through on an intention that necessarily gets modified. Makes me sad. Any advice Lisa?

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      September 30, 2014

      I totally understand this, Molly; some of my kids are the same way. They feel disappointment so acutely. I find I often don't tell them things until close to the time it is going to happen, or I tell them this is what I hope will happen. It's hard because it takes the pleasure out of happily anticipating much of anything, but it seems too difficult for them.

      Reply
  14. MayLynne
    October 1, 2014

    What a beautiful post. I love it. I have always felt uncomfortable with that little saying about God laughing at our plans. I hadn't really thought about why, but I love your take on it. It explains it so well. Of course God wants us to have plans and just because they don't follow the path we thought they would, doesn't mean they aren't important or that God is just waiting for them to fail so he can laugh and show us the right way. They are part of the journey.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 1, 2014

      So true, MayLynne. Your comment prompts the thought that perhaps it's even the making of the plans that is part of how God grows us, speaks to us, and works in our lives – even if He alters our plans in the end.

      Reply
  15. Sara Engle Anderson
    October 6, 2014

    I finally got around to reading this after saving it on my desktop since you wrote it! We are in a season of increasing care for a mother in law with Alzheimers and the daily help they need. In addition to work, homeschool, church, children, etc. I feel like NO plan we currently make is "permanent". This was a beautiful word. Amen for God and his infinitely wise, for our good and HIS GLORY, indelible INK!!!!

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      October 6, 2014

      Thank you for commenting, Sara. I'm so glad this was helpful to you.

      Reply

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