Recently a friend told me she had decided to get rid of all the journals and notebooks she’d filled with years of morning pages, journaling, short stories, poetry, teenage angst, and young adult musings. She had hauled boxes of journals from home to home over the years. During her most recent move, she looked at those boxes and wondered what she was holding on to. She knew no one would ever read the contents, including herself, so she took a bold step and tossed them.
Her fresh start got me thinking about who I am and who I was. I, too, have journals stashed on the bookshelf from my college days, early adult years, and first years of marriage. I wonder if the girl from those journals would recognize me now. Would she be impressed or disappointed? Or a little of both? Some dreams from those earlier years were never realized or set aside. Yet some dreams the younger me never knew were even possible were uncovered.
Who we were, who we are, and who we want to be.
Women spend a lot of time thinking about the what-ifs, the if-onlys, and a future full of plans that seem just out of reach. If only I could be skinnier, have more money, get a better job, keep my house clean, be a better mother/wife/daughter, have children/husband/family more understanding. The little voice of comparison and judgment can steal our joy and make us blind to the blessings we already have. When we reflect on what could have been instead of what is, we forget the One who sees us for who we are and who we can become, the One who has seen us through all those years of trying to figure out who we are, making mistakes, wandering roads in search for a destiny and dreams.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).
These words were communicated to God’s people while they were in exile, but they can speak to us today as we wander, when we feel as if we are in exile. God has read all our journal entries, musings, and stories (even if we haven’t physically written them down, they are known), and he knows how the past will weave into the future. Even if the plans we made twenty years ago never came to fruition, that doesn’t mean we’ve failed. We can see past the what-ifs and know the beauty already in place in our hearts. New plans are full of hope. No matter how far we wander, how much we change or stay the same, how much we compare our lives to others, a place exists where we are welcomed just as we are.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for thy courts above.
This verse from “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by eighteenth-century hymnist Robert Robinson is one of my favorites. It reminds me that I am always welcome at the Lord’s table, no matter how far I roam. I’m reminded that no matter how much my plans change, I am looked after and loved.
It doesn’t matter if our past and the plans of years ago no longer match who we are today. It’s good to look at who we used to be and where the journey has taken us.
Stephanie Clinton is a writer and blogger but more importantly, a wife and mother to two little boys. In her free time (if there is any) she can be found wiping snotty noses and volunteering in her community and school. Learn more about Stephanie along with her passion to encourage women and lighten their load at www.hugskissesandsnot.com.
Photograph © Jan Kahanek, used with permission