Little yellow dandelions nestle in the grass outside my window. My children are constantly picking them and bringing them to me thinking they are “sunflowers” and I’ve never had the heart to correct them. They know I love sunflowers, and so their gestures are some of the sweetest, most genuine that I could receive. Yet sometimes I tire of the shriveled little remains littering my house, stuck into cups and bud vases. Sometimes I have this urge to scream, “These are NOT SUNFLOWERS!!! They are just WEEDS!” Weeds that cover my grass reminding me of the perfectly manicured lawn that my yard is not. That yard is so representative of my life.
You grow up as a little child and you dream. For me, I dreamt of little feet running around in a well-ordered home, delicious meals always cooking on the stove, and a handsome husband who came home at the end of the day tired but happy. I dreamed that I would have everything organized just so, and that my children and I would always be put together. I dreamed so many things.
Instead, I find myself living a life that’s just a shadow of those dreams. Little feet do run around our home, but it is less than ordered. Crumbs sprinkle the floor and dishes sit dirty in the sink. The chaos of our lives encroaches on our very home. As I type this at my dining room table, I have to deal with a mattress leaned up against it. Boxes and tools mingle with the living room furniture. Many days, the only things on the stove are empty pizza boxes. My husband doesn’t often come straight home from work. Instead he heads to our project house and works for a few hours before coming home and falling into bed exhausted and anything but happy.
My life is far from organized and put together. I cleaned out my car last week, and four days later it was back to its cluttered, crumb-encrusted self. My children (and myself) can often be seen out on in public in a hodge podge collection of apparel featuring stains, mismatched colors, and tangled hair. I now avoid like the plague the certain Walmart employee who drew attention to my children loudly bickering as I was trying to scan groceries a few weeks back. As I write this, it’s Friday afternoon, the mattress is still obstructing my view, and I have no idea what I’m going to make for dinner.
In those dreams I dreamed, I never thought I’d be living in the midst of a remodel project, dealing with a rental property business, or going through a season of such busyness and chaos. I never thought I’d be dealing with so many health issues in my extended family in the past year, or that my mom would still be living in California 6 months later helping her parents, or that our downstairs would flood, or that friends would get in terrible accidents, or that friends would lose children, or…the list goes on and on.
I realize now that maybe those dreams I had were never what God meant for me. “My plans are not your plans”, He says. But what does that leave me? Am I to just sit in despair and be okay with all of those unfulfilled dreams?
The thing I so often forget is that when He doesn’t fulfill my dreams or thwarts my plans, it’s because He has far, far better dreams and plans of His own. His plans may not be our plans, but He does have them…plans for His glory and for our ultimate good. Plans that take so much into account that we could never know.
My heart has been squeezed with painful things so many times in this past year. Yet as I come out on the other end, I can see that He’s been using that pain to teach me and shape me. I’m not the same woman, nor do I have the same walk with Him, as I did a year ago, and I wouldn’t be able to say that if it weren’t for all of those hard, painful things I’ve walked through and watched those I love walk through. I’ve learned that when my heart is breaking, His is breaking too, and as I fix my gaze more and more on Him, I watch Him take these broken pieces, these shattered dreams, and these heartaches into His loving hands. I watch Him not make these bad things good, but instead work them all together for good. I see Him take away my faulty, uninformed plans and dreams, and replace them with His own.
You see, happiness is not found in fulfilled dreams. It’s found when we give up our dreams and embrace His dreams instead. It’s found when we learn to not just go along with His plans, but take joy and fulfillment in them as well, no matter how hard or painful they are.
I don’t know where you are today, but I would venture to guess that your life isn’t anything like you thought it would be. Maybe your life is full of pain right now. Maybe your plans are constantly falling apart. Maybe you’re just not in the the job, marriage, or family you always thought you’d be in. What I do know is that, while these may not be part of your dreams or plans, they are part of His. Whatever He has planned for you, He will equip you for, whatever His dreams are for you, there is beauty to found in them, and whatever sorrows you have experienced, He will work them together for good.
My house is chaotic, but it is warm, snug, safe, and full of memories. My children are never well-dress or well-behaved, but they are my children and they still want to crawl up in my lap. When my handsome, hard working husband finally does make it home at night and falls into bed, it is me he still wants to snuggle up with. After two babies, seven years, stretch marks, and fights, he still comes home and wants to be with me. Our lives may have been full of hard things this past year, but they’ve also been full of joy and laughter, love and growth. Our days are so far from perfect…but there is beauty in the imperfect.
My lawn will probably never be weed free and well-manicured. The only yellow flowers available for my children to pick will most likely always be dandelions. Yet, how much joy and love and beauty am I missing out on when I snub the dandelions whilst dreaming of sunflowers? Sunflowers are beautiful…but dandelions can be too. They may be weeds, but they are yellow, cheery, and impossible to kill. They don’t need diligent watering, fertilizing, or weeding. Most importantly, the love my children have for me pours over me every time they pick a tiny weed and bring it to me…the love of my safe, healthy children, might I add.
Dandelions can bring even more joy than sunflowers. I just need to learn to embrace them. And really, it doesn’t matter if my grass is perfect or weed ridden…I can still lay in it to gaze at the wonders of God’s creation…and the beauty He’s placed in it, just for me.