God Had Other Plans
A walk in the life of one of my friends, coworkers, brothers, and Scripture partners!
My life has been divided into many chapters. I grew up having a very comfortable life. I had two awesome parents and an older sister that helped me grow. When I finally left the safe place my parents provided, I struggled. For the next ten years, I had a hard time finding a path that didn’t come with emotional potholes and the occasional road block. Then September 11th happened.
When the terrorist attacks happened, I, like most people were forced to reevaluate my life choices. Eventually, I joined the Army and quickly deployed overseas to take part in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I believe these two things shaped my life and played a big part in who I have become as a person.
I returned home with more direction in my life than I did when I left a year and a half earlier. I had a good idea of the direction I wanted to go in. I was a child then and finally had grown up. Something would still be missing though. To complete my journey, I would need an unexpected blast from my past.
I would begin a new chapter by moving to Pittsburgh to further my education. Coming back from my first deployment, the Army became a path I wanted to further. A college degree would come with promotion points that would help me towards a richer military career. God had different plans though.
One day I was in the school library working on a PowerPoint presentation that was due the next day. Before heading back home, I wanted to check my Facebook for any messages. I can’t remember how long I stared at the computer as I saw the name who sent me a message flash across my screen.
K was my high school sweetheart. We dated when we were freshman and broke up the next year. Throughout high school we maintained a friendship, but realistically it wouldn’t last. Every girl I ever dated afterwards would fall victim of being compared to my first love. Even though I fought hard to convince myself she was wrong for me, I never fell out of love with her.
I did respond to that message and that response turned into many, and those messages turned into nightly phone calls. After a time we met for a date. It was a date even though I would have an argument later with my sister about the encounter actually being a date.
K married soon after we graduated high school and soon after they married they had two amazing daughters. Unfortunately, her husband got sick and passed away. I looked at this situation as a time to be a friend to someone I never stopped loving, but maintain respect for her loss.
As I mentioned I had a bit of an argument with my sister about this. I was meeting K once a month as I never transferred units when I moved to Pennsylvania. Every month I would come back to Michigan for drill and after final formation, I would go to see K and her girls. My sister made the comment that it would be amazing if K and I got back together. I was appalled at this and lashed back and reminded her of the circumstance that K had just gone through.
I think I was yearning to be respectful, but I think I was also using it as an excuse to not get involved. For a decade I was trying to convince myself that K was wrong for me. But, again…God had different plans.
It was not very long after this encounter with my sister, my travels from Pittsburgh to Michigan went from once a month, to every weekend. Every weekend I got out of class, rushed home and packed my car for the four hour journey back to Michigan. K and I did start dating again and it wasn’t long before I proposed.
There was definitely concern about taking on fatherhood to two young girls who just lost their dad. I had no doubt that many things were going to be difficult. Not only did a father pass away, but a husband did too. I feared I would be looked at as intrusive and disrespectful, and those fears held plenty of water. There were many that protested my presence in K’s life. Some knew who I used to be. I didn’t have a great reputation, because of who I once was. But, they didn’t know me now and others never knew me at all.
I believe it was something that K and I had to go through. I think it made us think harder about the future we were planning together, and I also believe it has made us stronger.
With all those fears and all the trials, I never thought about quitting. Making K my wife was all I wanted. Her two daughters were part of the deal too and I was marrying them just as much as their mom. I loved all three and I strapped on my body armor and married my high school sweetheart eleven months after our first “date”.
I really have no regrets about becoming an instant father after marrying K. Both girls also have been vital pieces in my life. They were small when I came into their life, so I really didn’t miss much. I have seen them through most of their school years and growing into young women. One daughter is about to marry herself, and the other has been accepted to a major college in the fall. I love my life and my three girls are a major factor in that.
A couple years after marriage, I did want just one more thing. Both girls were gifts from God, but I wanted just one more. I wanted to go through the process that most do when they become a parent. I wanted another child. This would come in the form of my son. My plan was to be there for my son and teach him so many things. My plan was to be there and teach him to walk and talk. That was my “plan”. Again… God had other plans.
My unit had been put on alert for deployment to either Afghanistan or Kuwait. Nothing was clear, but I was told not to make any plans. We had been put on alert before only to be called off. This time though, it looked more concrete. So, K and I decided to stop trying to have a child until we knew for sure.
God was definitely busy throwing wrenches in our plans. K had two children before, so she knew that a test would be appropriate when she started feeling sick. We did not stop soon enough and our son would be born one month before I shipped out to Kuwait.
I don’t even remember taking this news poorly. Bad timing? Not at all. I remember being super excited and believing this was in God’s timing. After we came down from the excitement I’m sure there were discussions about what we would try to accomplish while I was home. Sometimes, I just have to laugh at God’s timing. Because, He was still not done throwing wrenches.
In the National Guard there is no such thing as one weekend a month while getting ready for a deployment. Twice a month and sometimes a week at a time we trained in Battle Creek or Grayling. One particular week in Grayling, K goes into labor. At this time we were living in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. And, after getting the Red Cross message I rushed ten hours to be with my wife and recently born son. I thought for sure I would miss his birth. I would miss being there to coach my wife. THANK YOU LORD…. false labor. I think He thought I deserved this break. Two days later though it would not be false, and I was able to be there to hold my wife’s hand and hold my baby boy.
At 47 years old, I can finally say that there is not one thing I would change about my life. I have heard people debate about anything and everything they would do over in their past. I am not a fan of that question. I have made some really bad choices and I have done things I’m not proud of. It took me a long time to find what I’ve always been looking for, but I believe very strongly that if any of those choices would have gone better or I didn’t do the things I’ve done… I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I don’t really have any advice for anyone that finds themselves in the position I found myself in, but for those difficult times in my life, I credit Jesus Christ for getting me through it all. Without Him, I would still be in the same rut, I was living in. I still make poor decisions and do stupid things. Two verses that give me hope are Philippians 4:13 which says: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” and the other is Psalm 23:4 which is my favorite verse of all and that says: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
I have had an interesting life and have accomplished plenty, but I don’t really know how I did it. All I know is that I try to listen to Christ’s voice. I try to pay attention to His guidance and when I haven’t, I’ve fallen hard. I guess if I did have any advice for anyone it would be to listen…. and then follow. Jonah didn’t follow and he was eaten by a whale.