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What Is My Life?

Laura Phelps

It was the year 2000, and we had a good plan. A plan that involved leaving our New York City apartment and heading out west. Despite our friend's warnings, selfish ambition got the best of us. “We will be back in a year,” we promised our loved ones, “when we have enough money to live comfortably.” And so we said goodbye to everything and everyone that we knew and loved in pursuit of success at all costs.

The future was ours to create. Or so we believed.

Living one year in sunny California turned into ten years stuck in Los Angeles. The money, status, and comfort we left our family for were replaced with bankruptcy, stress, and regret. Turns out, we were not the masters of our fate. So much for the good plan.

The great irony is that 22 years later I look back on that season and would give my right arm to relive just one of those days. As I prepare for one daughter’s 21st birthday and another’s high school graduation, suddenly the Scripture verse that warns me that I am “a puff of smoke that appears for a little time and then vanishes”[1] sounds like the obnoxious ticking of the world’s most insensitive time bomb. I want my four small kids back. I want that tiny one-bedroom apartment. I want to drag my family’s dirty clothes to the laundromat with kids in tow, cover every corner of the kitchen table with glitter and glue, and go on an “adventure walk,” which really was just picking up snails on our way to add quarters to our laundry card. 

It was a hard season. So why do I long for it?

Turns out that my struggling life—the one I was so eager to get ahead of—was a deliberately crafted garland of ordinary moments strung together by the wisdom of God. Knowing the confident pride I am prone to fall into when planning my future, He gifted me with four little sanctifiers and a husband who made barely enough money to cover rent just so I’d keep tethered to the better part. All those years when I dreamed of where I thought I ought to be, I was, in fact, exactly where He needed me to be: witnessing Christ to others in the little places and messy spaces we called home.

Oh, sweet friends…do not buy into the lie that you belong somewhere else.
Do not believe for a minute that you are replaceable, not enough, or incomplete.
The season you are in is not God’s mistake, oversight, or His just killing time.
And if the glitter drives you crazy, have no fear. It, too, will disappear. 

The older I get the better I understand that God has a divine plan. What looked like obstacles to my living a good, secure life (four small kids, no babysitter, a tiny apartment, and a disappointing paycheck) were opportunities to depend on God’s grace, mercy, and will in every moment. Our good plan was never going to bear us lasting fruit; not only because we were living in the confidence of ourselves, but because, spoiler alert, man’s plans are always tentative. 

If you’re struggling with the season you are in, here’s a fun fact:
the season you are in is the only season you are guaranteed.
The opportunities of today may not be available tomorrow.
So, stop worrying about the future, and who you think you need to become, and be present to the woman you are right now. Be her. I am more than confident that someone in your life really loves and needs her. Not tomorrow. But today.

We read in the Letter of James, “You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. For you are just a vapor that appears for a little while, and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. So for one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, for him it is sin.”[2]

I am not denying the value of a sound plan, nor am I calling you evil for having a future vision. Sometimes a future vision is the only thing that gets us out of bed. However, Scripture makes it very clear that our lives, fragile and temporary, are not to be focused on tomorrow. We cannot predict the future, we do not live forever, and nothing we plan is permanent. The only thing secure is today.

I don’t know where you are right now, but I can tell you where I am. I’m living in the present moment; choosing to love God in my every move and serve Him where He has placed me—not where I am striving to place myself. You know, back in the day, I would have cooked, cleaned, wiped noses and kitchen counters, and grumbled to myself, “What is my life?” It can be difficult to see Jesus in the ordinary, and yet, dare I say, it’s His favorite place to be. 

The season you are in might not be where you want to be, but it is where God needs you to be. Today, for as long as it lasts, is always a good place to be. So open your eyes to today, my friend. If you’re lucky, you will not only see Jesus, but you may also catch the sparkle of glitter from a long time ago—hidden but present in the messy places and spaces of this temporary home.

[1] James 4:14 (NAB)
[2] James 4:14–17 (RSV)
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