"In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." Proverbs 16:9
I'm the kind of person who likes to look before I leap, so to speak. I like to know what I'm getting into. I don't really like doing something if I haven't investigated it first and if I don't have a general idea how it's going to go.
Even in the case of something fairly small, like trying a new restaurant, I feel pretty overwhelmed if I don't know what to do ahead of time. If I know someone else has been to that restaurant before, I usually call them and ask very specific questions about the place. I want to know what the atmosphere is like so I'll be dressed appropriately, what kind of food will be served, and whether I'll have to order up front at the counter or at the table with a menu. For me, one of the most stressful situations in the world is being somewhere and not knowing what to do or what will happen next.
You can imagine how helpless this life with infertility makes me feel. Talk about not knowing what will happen! There are a lot of unexpected twists and turns, and there is an enormous amount of uncertainty. Will I get pregnant this month? Next month? If I do, what will happen next? Another miscarriage? How would I handle another loss? Will we have a baby a year from now? Five years from now? Never? Will we adopt? Unfortunately, I can't call anyone ahead of time and find out exactly what will happen step by step!
One of my biggest challenges is making plans, and letting go of them is even harder. I married my husband at a young age. Sure, we had ideas and plans about the future -- what we thought would happen and what we hoped would happen. I had dreams of building our family while I was young, and having my children in my twenties. I envisioned my children growing up with my sister's children. I imagined family portraits of all of my mom's grandchildren together, separated in age by only a few years. After we bought our first home, I pictured our children growing up under this roof and all the memories we would make here as a young family. But infertility has changed all of that.
Even now as I write those words, I know that in my heart I haven't let go of all of those plans just yet. Some of them have been put on hold for a long time while others have been put to rest. I still dream of watching my children grow up in our home, but I know that I'll never be a twenty-something-year-old mom. And I know that if we do have children someday, my sister's boys will be much older than their cousins.
I certainly realize that these may someday seem like small sacrifices in the grand scheme of things. We would be thrilled to become parents even under different circumstances than the ones we'd imagined. Adapting to changes and making new plans are simply a part of life. Still, it's hard letting go of them, my "castles in the air," even though I know that life rarely turns out exactly how anyone plans.
Several weeks ago I finished reading the classic Louisa May Alcott novel, Little Women. I absolutely loved every second of it. It was my first time reading the book, although the movie has long been one of my favorites. In one of the many memorable scenes early in the book, the March sisters and their dear friend and neighbor Laurie spend an afternoon daydreaming about the future. In the chapter titled "Castles in the Air," the characters (who are teenagers at the time) reveal their loftiest lifelong dreams. Each one has a plan for where they'd like to be in the future. Besides Beth, who is humble and meek and wise beyond her years, everyone dreams of being rich and famous: Laurie a famous musician, Meg the mistress of a luxurious home, Jo a successful writer, and Amy a world-renowned artist.
"'Wouldn't it be fun if all the castles in the air which we make could come true, and we could live in them?' said Jo, after a little pause."
The great thing about being the reader is that we get to see exactly what the future holds in just a few hundred pages. Even in the book, no one's life goes exactly according to his or her plan, although some get closer than others.
I don't think that it's a bad idea to have big dreams, goals, and plans. And I don't think it's bad at all to pursue them and to hope that they'll come true. But I do think it's important to not get carried away with our "castles." Many times I feel totally crushed by the weight of all of the unknowns in my future. I've felt like I'm just spinning my wheels, staying in one place while others move forward. Sometimes it's overwhelming to think that people around me are seeing their plans and dreams fulfilled with each passing year. Sometimes I begin to panic. I get so focused on the big picture that I forget to enjoy what is happening around me today.
When I let myself, I realize that there are little detours along the way that I don't want to miss. Sometimes when we have to wait a very long time or accept a change of plans, we might just get to do things we never thought we'd ever be able to do. And we might find ourselves very thankful for that.
I'm planning to keep my castles in the air. But I reserve the right to rebuild them as I go, because sometimes God may have other plans.