Wednesday, February 8, 2012

For I know the plans I have for you

A year ago tonight, I got the scariest phone call of my life.

The burglary set in motion the craziest, most difficult, most ridiculous year of my life. 2011 took us for a ride. After the burglary, there was the shooting. Then, even after we moved, there was the fire.

And on August 16, 2011, we found out we were pregnant.


Just kidding. But seriously, I would not have been surprised.

It's been a year of unknowns, a year of losing my sense of security, a year of fear and anxiety. But it's also been a year of learning how to trust God. Learning how to give up control. Learning what the important things are. God gave us this trial and He is continuing to use it to demonstrate His power. 

He used it to strengthen our marriage. Relying on someone else was never something I really wanted to do, even after I got married. Even during the burglary and the shooting and the fire, Bryan was pretty powerless, and even just as scared as I was. But these situations awoke the leader in him, and even through the terror and the unknown, he took charge and protected our family, and took care of everything in the aftermath. I know that he will always care for our family and protect us and provide for us, even when the worst things come along, because we dealt with some of the worst things this past year and he shone. Figuring out how to lead and follow is something our relationship has always struggled with, and a lot of marriages struggle with. We still don't have it completely figured out, but the last year has brought us a long way.

God used this year to strengthen our trust in Him. The night our house was broken into, our friends from church rushed over to support us and our pastor gave us a place to stay for the night. Other friends prayed over our house and our safety and our neighborhood. Many of my anxious, sleepless nights and early mornings were spent reading through the Bible, watching God redeem and deliver His people over and over again. King David spent the same scared, sleepless nights I did, crouching in caves, hiding from his enemies and fearing for his life and hoping for God to protect him. The Bible became a comfort to me in a way it had never done before.

I still struggle, though. Even though we've moved, I still get anxious, especially at night. I don't even walk the dog at night when a few years ago, I never thought twice about walking alone late at night in this very same neighborhood. I still have sleepless nights, and the early mornings when Bryan goes to work and I'm home alone are still difficult. I still jolt awake if I hear anything outside. There's a can of mace next to our bed, and my cell phone's always within reach. 

Just last week, I heard people running around outside our house, and a loud crashing sound. When we looked outside, there was a crowd of people around our truck and we could hear them in our yard. We could hear them saying what sounded like sinister things. We called the police, and it turned out that it was just a party that got broken up, and some of the drunk kids thought they'd hide in our yard from the police.

My phone number is probably on some sort of "Post-Traumatic Stressed" list over at the 911 dispatch because of all the times I've called them scared this year. I've called 911 more times in the last year than I ever have in my life (which was, like, twice). It's always legitimate; I don't just call for every little noise I hear, but I now get terrified of things much more easily than ever before. But I've seen God's hand in everything that's happened, and it's all strengthened my faith in Him.

Now that we're pregnant, there are so many unknowns. We can't see the baby or know much about it, and it was only about two months ago that I could even feel it. There's an entire person inside me, but its entire life is a mystery. But there's plenty to worry about. Miscarriages are so common, especially in the first trimester. And even if you make it past then, there are still plenty of things that can go wrong throughout the rest of pregnancy and childbirth. I've seen plenty of this in the lives of my friends just in the span of time that I've been pregnant. And even when the baby's in our arms, there's still an entire lifetime of things that could happen.

I see so many moms who struggle with anxiety, and now I understand why. This little life is so connected to my soul that I would be devastated if anything happened to it. But struggling through the anxiety after the burglary was so hard on me and Bryan that I know I don't want to spend my life like that. 

I think the burglary and this past year of pure crazy has been such a perfect transition into parenthood for us, and something that only God would have planned. He knew that we would need to let go of our own control and trust Him for everything, even the worst, most difficult things. We still have responsibilities. Just like it would be foolish to just leave our doors unlocked and hope for the best, we still have to be vigilant parents and do everything we can. But I know now that we can't do everything perfectly. What's more is that I don't think God wants us to do things our version of perfectly. He wants us to make mistakes and trust Him. It's necessary for bad things to happen so that we can see God shine through.

A lot of Christians quote Jeremiah 29:11 to comfort each other from fear: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the Lord. 'Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.'" It's a wonderful and reassuring verse, but I never thought about WHY God was saying this. What is the "for" at the beginning of the verse in reference to? It wasn't until I read the entire chapter that I completely understood the context. God is urging His people to be faithful because He is sending them into 70 years of exile into Babylon. He is promising them that times are going to suck, but that they have a mission to complete during their exile, and through this trial, God is going to show them tremendous glory. Jeremiah 29:11 doesn't mean that our lives are going to be easy and secure. God promises exactly the opposite of that. But He does promise us hope and glory.

I have no idea what to expect out of parenthood. I have plenty of plans and intentions for sure, but God has this magnificent, glorious plan that's better than mine. And I don't doubt that God's plan includes lots of trials. He has things planned for us that will stretch us and test us and be difficult and probably even devastating. At the moment, though, I'm not scared or apprehensive for the future. This probably won't last. But God is good, and the future is going to be glorious, and I've never been more excited.


Sarah Templeman said...

Wow, Ashley! Thanks so much for this glimse into your lives! I know that we have had many conversations regarding all of this over the last few months; but I am so glad that you took the time to write it all down and share it with the world.
I love what you wrote about us learning to trust God more as a result of our mistakes and difficult times...amen to that!
You and Bryan are such awesome witnesses of humility and authenticity...we really love and appreciate you guys! So excited to see what God has in store for your family! Love you, Lady!

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Ashley Sue said...

God bless you for sharing such a vulnerable truth! Oh my goodness, and to read your recent entries and see that you are handling the lack of control we have in our lives and the surrender of God's plan... you and baby and husband are handling it just fine. <3 OH, I am so happy for you, and so happy for this post. Thank you so much for sharing such beauty from within, and congrats on sweet Sebastian (did I spell it right?!)!