Setback or blessing?

Crônicas do Cotidiano > Setback or blessing?

Last week, we received a long letter from a niece, daughter of my sister, who lives in the USA (for those who are reading me for the first time, I live in São Paulo, Brazil). C… and her two older sisters lived with us for five months each, when they were fifteen or sixteen. Bonds of affection increased during those days, and continue until today, despite the distance. She and our youngest son are approximately the same age (she is a few months older), and she is a sweet, cheery and kind young woman, who just turned 23. This is how I answered:


Dear C….:
Wow! That was exciting to read (and to experience too, I’m sure!) Life can be a real adventure when looked at from the proper perspective. You went from perceiving yourself as a victim of fate to being the daughter of the Sovereign King! We look forward to hearing about further developments (you’ve spoiled us now!).
Love, Aunt Betty

P.S. I’m thinking that your letter could be illuminating to others as to how to perceive God’s providence and cope with what seem to be setbacks. So would you mind if I posted it on my blog with an introduction? In English and Portuguese?

She gave me permission in her reply and so the letter she sent follows.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21

I was reminded of this verse at our end of the year youth retreat a few weeks ago where the theme of discussion was God’s sovereignty. This is a doctrine that many believers struggle with even though it is clearly set out in the Bible that God’s will in our lives is preordained and that He is the supreme power and authority. Ordinarily, I would argue that I am not one of those people who struggles with this concept. Of course God has a preordained plan for our lives! I know He is omniscient and omnipresent and omnipotent and therefore doesn’t He hold a sovereign will for my life? Yes, He does! But do I really believe that? Most of the time? All of the time? Well, this is what I got a life application crash course in just a few days after returning from the retreat.

I have been out of school for almost two years now and to anyone asking me what my plan was, my usual response was, “I’m not totally sure.” I don’t see my two years as wasted time though. I was blessed with a flexible job as a nanny—focusing a lot of my energy on two young Christian boys, ages 7 and 9. I have learned a lot from working with them and have had both joys and frustrations in dealing with them, but I am mostly thankful for the opportunity to be so close to these boys and help “train them up in the way they should go.”

Besides time spent working, being out of school gave me a lot more time to serve in various aspects of the church as well as giving me time to build relationships with many friends. For once in my life, I didn’t have homework hanging over my head, so I was free and flexible to pour my attentions into those who needed a friend or just someone to hang out with or talk to. These things were all great, but realizing that I don’t want to nanny for the rest of my life, I began looking more seriously into going back to school.

I prayed about it and researched it and decided that going to the University of Washington in Tacoma would be the most inexpensive and easiest way for me to pursue my Bachelor’s degree which could eventually help me to get a job. I applied for the winter quarter enrollment in good time, was accepted right away, and after talking to an advising counselor, I found out that all of my TCC credits from my Associate’s Degree transferred perfectly and that I should be able to finish a degree at UWT in about 6 quarters (2 years) if I take a normal class load. This was great news! I could handle 2 years! Right? J I declared my major to be American Studies so that I could take some history classes that I was interested in and went on my merry way.

I was getting more excited about returning to school and all I had to do before I could register for classes was to turn in my proof of immunization form. Sounds easy enough, right? That’s what I thought, but here is where my “problems” began. To ensure that everybody turns in their proof, (and does not infect the whole school with the measles) they do not allow you to register for classes until they receive this. I made my appropriate copies and faxed this to the school, but after a couple days I was still not able to register for classes so I decided to just mail in a hard copy. Sadly, I mailed this the day before the BIG WINTER STORM of December 2008 hit and so they did not receive my poor little letter because Tacoma and all of its schools shut down for the next week and a half with 8 inches of snow and icy roads. Christmas followed this storm and so obviously the school was still closed and meanwhile all the classes were filling up with students who were able to register.

On the day after Christmas, the school was finally open and I talked to a poor guy who was the only one back in the office with piles of papers on his desk from 2 weeks of being closed. He asked me to be patient as he looked for my particular letter but I only had to be patient for 30 seconds because I had put a bright pink sticky note on my form saying that I had faxed it in but they had not received it. Because of this, he was able to help me very quickly and after waiting 2 weeks, it took him only 5 minutes to update my information in the computers and advised me to make sure I registered for something even though most of the classes were full because otherwise I would be charged a late registration fee on the first day of school.

There were only about 5 classes that interested me or pertained to the major that I wanted to pursue, as well as that fit with my schedule, but all of them were already full. I e-mailed professors to see if they would over enroll and all of them told me the same thing: to come to class on the first day and see if there were openings but they could not over enroll. So a little frustrated at the fact that UWT does not have wait lists, I signed up for a class that would be at a good time for me to go and drop on the first day if I could get into something else. The class was called, “Contemporary Spanish Culture” with a rather ridiculous class description and nothing to do with my declared major of American Studies. At this point I was frustrated and anxious about having to deal with a mess of classes on the first day of school and I went to the retreat with this on my mind.

I was so thankful for the messages at the retreat though. All of them were excellently delivered and clearly spoke God’s word about His Sovereignty. These reminders being knocked into my head for 3 days and some time in prayer helped to give me a peace about the prospect of dealing with school in the coming week. After all, He had ordained the storm, right? And He knew that my papers would not be received on time for a reason and that I would not be able to register at the time that I wanted to. And also, He had still provided a way for me to figure out some classes, it just was not as easy as clicking “enroll” on a computer screen, but I could deal with that, right?

On January 5, 2009 I got up early, brought “my kids” to school, and then went to my first attempt to get into a class at UWT. The class was a Creative Writing class and I talked to the Professor at the beginning asking if anyone had dropped out so I could fill their spot. She said so far there was one person ahead of me there, waiting to get in, but I could stay for the beginning of the class and see if everyone who enrolled would show up. After talking to her, a girl from my brother’s class at Covenant saw me from across the room and cheerfully greeted me. It was nice to see a familiar face and I thought it would be great to take this class (And even though I don’t really like Creative Writing, I was trying to convince myself that it would be good for me to take… J Also, this class would interfere with my work schedule some, but I was willing and able to switch some of that around to just get into a class).

I stayed for about an hour before I was able to talk to the Professor again and be told that actually everyone had shown up who was enrolled but I could keep checking online throughout the week to see if anyone had dropped. Feeling discouraged, I said goodbye to the girl I knew and headed out of the class that seemed like it would be perfect if I could just get in (It wouldn’t really have been perfect for me but I was justifying it in my head—especially because I knew someone in the class without planning that).

At this point, there were a couple other classes that I could try the next day, but I was feeling a little hopeless that any of them would actually end up working. So I went to enrollment and talked to the same guy that I talked to on the phone after Christmas. He was really helpful and even remembered me as “pink sticky note girl” once he heard my name. I asked him about just deferring my enrollment until spring quarter because I couldn’t get into any classes and he was very helpful at giving me the appropriate paperwork to postpone my entry into the UWT. I left still feeling discouraged because I had planned and wanted to go to school during winter quarter, but I was trying to understand that God might have another plan for me in waiting.

I won’t go into too many details about the rest of my afternoon, but to put it simply, it was just one of those days where nothing seemed to go right and I ended up having a good cry and just praying and pleading with God to help me understand His plan and to trust Him in it.

I went back to school that evening for the class that I had actually registered for with every intention of dropping it. I met my friend Autumn a few minutes before the class because she has one at the same time, and she was very sweet and listened to all my woes as I grumpily told her the story of my day and picked up an add/drop form to just be done with it all and wait until spring quarter.

But isn’t it funny when we realize that God’s plans are oh so much better than we could ever have imagined? I went into this Contemporary Spanish Class and sat in the back. The professor came in (I thought she was a student at first because she is very young) and introduced herself and the class. She is from Spain and the class is about Spain’s history and how that relates to its culture today. Immediately I forgot that I was supposed to be grumpy as I was intrigued at the prospects of learning something new about Spain. I know very little about Spain except some facts from my knowledge of Columbus sailing the ocean blue in 1492.

Also in the first 20 minutes of class, the professor explained that this class counted as one of the requirements for a Spanish minor and encouraged her students to consider working towards one because it was only 25 credits (10 upper division language credits and 15 culture credits). This also excited me immediately because I have already had a lot of Spanish training and I have always been one of the top students in my Spanish classes. At this point, I had to keep from laughing and crying all at once because I was sitting in the class that I would have never ever in a million years chosen to register for on my own, and not only was I interested in the class itself (for sure it was way better than a whole quarter of creative writing!!), but suddenly I had some possible direction for my studies at the University. And another perk, is that there is no final in this class, just a final paper due on the last day of class, so I basically have a 2-week spring break. I had been hoping to go to Europe to visit a friend during March but with classes being so complicated, I had started to think that I would have to be taking a final instead of traveling Europe.

Now I’m still not sure what exactly God has in mind for my future, but I’m thankful that He knew better than I what class I should take this quarter. I am excited about my upcoming studies and pray that by God’s grace I will trust Him and His will in my life more and more and not lean on my own understanding of what is best for me. I’m also still praying about Europe, but if it is God’s will for me to do that I will be traveling there in March. Yesterday I declared myself as a Global Studies major with a Hispanic Studies minor. I’m not exactly sure what that all entails but now I think this will be a better fit for me and perhaps it will open many more doors for serving the Lord in new and different capacities. I also am looking into traveling to Mexico for 3 weeks with UWT for a 5 credit trip. I am praising the Lord for this sanctifying day and it has given me many opportunities already to share of His greatness, love, and mercy.

How comforting to a believer that it is “the purpose of the Lord that will stand!”

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Crônicas do Cotidiano > Setback or blessing?