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As a first-grade teacher there are certain duties required of me. Things like greet the students each morning, take attendance, and create engaging lesson plans designed to meet district and state objectives. These tasks (and so much more) are expected to occur each and every day. Doing each of these things is so ingrained into my daily routine, I do them without even thinking about it (except maybe taking attendance; the secretary still calls my room at least once a month to remind me – oops!).


But sometimes the school day doesn’t go at all like I’d planned, despite the hours of preparation. There was one particular day, several years ago, when I, shall we say…strayed from the district objective.


Now anyone who has spent any time in an elementary school knows things can go awry for any number of reasons. Unexpected all-school assembly. Birthday cupcakes arrive. The dreaded “full moon effect.” But this day started off like any other school day.

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I mean, as normal as the day can be when it’s February 14th and kids are arriving with cards, candy, and boxes shaped like unicorns, Pokémon, and gigantic Hershey’s kisses. Needless to say, there WAS an audible level of excitement in the air. As any seasoned teacher will tell you, it’s not the Pinterest worthy boxes that catch our attention. We scan the arriving students with a trained eye, seeking out the few kids with slumped shoulders and empty hands.


And there she was.


Once the class had settled down (and I remembered to turn in attendance!), it was time for our reading lesson. But I couldn’t take my eyes off her. She wilted into her chair like the deflated recess balls left outside on the playground. So, I did what all teachers do on February 14th -gathered stickers, markers, construction paper, and glue. And after I busied the rest of the class, this deflated six-year-old sat with me and we began cutting, gluing, and creating her very own Valentine’s box and a class set of cards for her to pass out. As we chatted and worked together, she bloomed! And that day she (and the rest of the class) learned something so much more important than the reading lesson I had planned. That SHE mattered. That THEY mattered. Because sometimes we must veer away from the plan, depending on an individual student’s needs. I’d planned on teaching reading that day, but I could see that’s not what this student needed in that moment.


Isn’t that just like our relationship with God? We make our plans. We prepare. We expect things to go a certain way. We make big plans such as when we’ll get married, how many kids we’ll have, or what we’ll do for a living and we make small plans, like if we’ll make dinner or just grab takeout. We fill our calendars with future activities. Some people even have their own five-year or ten-year plan. Their whole life is mapped out.


But sometimes God looks at us with a trained eye and sees what we can’t see. In fact, He sees BEYOND what we see. God has His own plan designed for each of us to fit our own individual needs. And those plans we made? When those plans don’t match His plans? Well, then what?


I know my life hasn’t gone at all the way I planned when I was a young college student daydreaming about life. I was positive I’d be married at 25, have a houseful of kids by the time I was 30, and spend my days juggling carpool, P.T.A. meetings, and life as a stay-at-home mom. Well, THAT didn’t go as planned. Here I am sliding down that infamous hill we all find ourselves going over at a certain age, with no children to call my own, staring at the finish line of a 30-year career in education. I did snag a guy to marry (albeit later than planned) and we have two very spoiled dogs! It’s a good life – a great life; but not the one that 20-something me planned. I don’t know why my plan didn’t fall in line with God’s plan for me, but it didn’t. I could live in a perpetual state of bitterness, filled with anger, hurt, and resentment towards God for not following MY plan. But why? For one thing, no one wants to be around someone with a sour stance. But most of all, we are called to TRUST God.


“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


I may never know the WHY that would explain God’s direction for my life and that’s okay. Sure, I still have moments of sadness because my plan didn’t pan out, but I know God had His reasons. Good reasons. So often we hear testimony from people praising Jesus for answering their prayers with a yes. But for some of us, our stories didn’t go as planned. Yet we continue to praise Jesus. We still trust God to lead us. Even when His plan for our lives looks different than our own expectations.


“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” 

Proverbs 19:21

Well, That Didn't Go As Planned
by Jennifer Stephens
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