Penciled in Plans


Sometimes God leads in ways I don’t expect.

It all started with an email from my academic advisor. In a few straightforward sentences, her words unraveled my plans for the upcoming semester.

For months, I’d planned to participate in a missions and mountaineering program in Yosemite and Ecuador. I looked forward to visiting the famed Yosemite Valley, exploring the Sierras in California, climbing in the Andes, and serving the international church during my travels. I had purchased my plane ticket, sent in my deposit, talked to my college advisor about credits, and packed all my gear.

This email, however, brought all of that to a screeching halt.

I discovered that a class I needed to graduate on schedule was only available the semester I planned to be in Ecuador.

Here I was, willing and ready to head to Ecuador when God told me, “Stay.”

Stay? In Flagstaff, Arizona?

I’d like to say that I was calm and levelheaded when I found out, but in reality I was upset. Why couldn’t they have told me this earlier? My mind ran a mile a minute trying to figure out possible remedies for how I could fix this situation.

The last-minute timing of this announcement was definitely not my style. Not only am I organized, but I’m both gifted and cursed with the ability to look and plan ahead. I had no opportunity to prepare for this. In fact, it was the dishevelment of my carefully orchestrated plans.

With the undoing of my plans came the reminder of my dependence on Christ. This situation was in His hands. Last minute changes required me to trust Him more, and to depend on His providence and guidance more than my own organization and careful planning.

Trust His providence and guidance more. Depend on my own organization and careful planning less. More Him. Less me.

As the apostle John says in John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” I wanted so desperately to be more like Jesus than like myself, but when it actually happened I wanted to grab back the reigns and take the lead.

I had a decision to make.

Flagstaff was home to my college campus, my college ministry InterVarsity, strong relationships God had blessed me with, and opportunities to impact our campus for Christ. Ecuador was an unknown adventure. It was filled with high mountain peaks I wanted to explore, children I desired to love and serve, and poverty I wanted to fight. I longed to experience international missions first hand and to worship with followers of Christ around the world.

I wasn’t sure what I should do.

I begged God for clear direction, asking Him to show me His plan and eliminate my own. I called my dad for advice, and went for a walk with one of my best friends. She and I prayed as we walked through campus that God would make His way obvious.

As I shared with my friend how excited I was about what God was doing on campus, the decision became clearer. I looked at the familiar spots around me and realized that God had been developing in me a passion for my university and peers that I didn’t know existed. I was walking in the midst of my mission field.

Someday God may call me to go. He may ask me to pack up and follow Him across the sea to a foreign land, across the country to a new state, or across a state to a new city. But for now, He’s called me to remain where He’s placed me. God has shown me that my work here isn’t done. He’s given me a role to play in impacting my campus for Him and changing the world from right here in Flagstaff.

This whole process has reminded me that His plans are not always my plans. I need look no further than the wisdom of Solomon in the book of Proverbs to be reminded of this fact. Proverbs 16:9 says that “the heart of man plans his way, but the Lord established his steps.” And, again in 19:21, Solomon writes, “Many are the plans in the mid of man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”

My life and my plans are not my own. They belong to my Savior who knows all and knows best.

It may not be the “adventure” filled with climbing high mountain peaks and working in the slums of Quito that I expected, but it is an adventure of God’s making. He’s revealing not only His plan for my life, but also His plan for my university and the role I have to play. God is alive and active on the Northern Arizona campus and it’s an adventure I wouldn’t want to miss for the world.

So, I’m staying — and from now on, I’m writing all of my plans in pencil.

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A Canadian citizen raised in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota, Alida Oegema's heart is in the mountains, where she loves to hike, climb, camp, and explore. She is currently in her second year of college at Northern Arizona University studying Outdoor Recreation and Environmental Studies. She loves organic cooking, writing, photography, traveling, being eco-friendly, and long talks/discussions over tea. She is constantly amazed by God's faithfulness and is so thankful for the endless adventure of grace that is her life.

  • Your situation is so familiar to me in ways that don’t entirely make sense. My entire post-secondary education has been a bit of a mess, and I’ve been faced with some of those decisions that needed to be made immediately, with little-to-no sense of direction. I like to plan things out too, so I know exactly what you mean… and this happens all the time in every area of my life.

    At this point, the tagline of my life reads: I make plans, then God laughs at them.

    I’m grateful to Solomon for his friendly reminders, and to you for writing this post. I really enjoyed it! :)

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Penciled in Plans

by Alida Oegema time to read: 3 min