Embrace planning, then change

Plans are such reassuring things. Knowing where you’ll be, when you’ll be there, and what you’ll be doing, instills such a sense of security. Planning your life, from the daily grind to the years-long goals, can even give you the sense that you control what will happen. Sometimes, though, plans were made to be broken.

Take yours truly for example. Twenty-five years ago, I was convinced that I would have my Ph.D. in archaeology with a minor in linguistics, and be working happily on a high-profile dig overseas. A husband and kids were nowhere in the picture. Naturally, I would be financially well off enough to afford all of my childhood dreams, and several houses to keep them in. Obviously, since I’m sitting here writing this, I had a rather large change of plans.

And it seems that plans changing is a rather normal occurrence for me. Four or five years ago, I was lugging the kiddos back and forth to gymnastics. Getting them in the car to go to practice was like pulling teeth, and you could tell their hearts just weren’t in it. One day, darling daughter asked her daddy if they could quit gymnastics and do martial arts instead. Scott, a former second Black Belt in TaeKwonDo, wasted no time finding the perfect place for his family to learn. He even started over as a white belt with the rest of us.

Full disclosure here: I had every intention of dropping out. I was used to Brazilian Jiujitsu, and I just KNEW I’d never be able to do the kicks that TKD is known for. I figured I’d do enough classes to get the kids started, then gracefully fade off into the spectator seats with my knitting.

By the time I remembered my plan, I was a green belt. In our ranking system, that’s almost halfway to a black belt. I had been training hard alongside the kids, and I was seeing definite improvements in my physical health and mental acuity. Heck, even my kicks were getting better. Somewhat amused by the idea that I, a 40-year-old housewife, could earn a black belt in TaeKwonDo, I set out to do just that.

Not only were the people at my dojang amazingly supportive, so were the other ladies my age and rank that I soon met at tournaments. Yeah, me, doing TKD tournaments. That DEFINITELY wasn’t in the original plan. The more I trained, the more I competed, the more I liked it. And the occasional win was definitely a rush. So I kept training harder.

Finally, the day came. I earned my first-degree black belt. And, as it was being tied around my waist, it really sank in that it was just a symbol of the lifetime of learning to come. It was also a huge reminder of what I didn’t know. I left my friends in my previous tournament ring behind and moved into black belt competition.

That first time out was a rude awakening. I was quite literally in a whole new league. I didn’t place in one event that tournament…not in forms (my favorite), not in weapons (I didn’t know a weapons form yet), not in sparring (my least favorite event), not in combat weapons (my other favorite). I came home with a participation medal…and the determination to do better.

I threw myself into practicing, learning, perfecting, competing. Tournament after tournament ground by, always with some new nugget of wisdom of improvement. Practice after practice, hour after hour, better, higher, faster, stronger. As the season wound down, I earned the title of State Champion in Traditional Weapons and Traditional Sparring, plus the right to compete at the district championships (including Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri) to earn the title of District Champion, and with that, the right to compete for World Champion.

Loss after loss racked up at Districts. Third in forms. Ouch. Third in weapons. Ouch. Third in combat weapons. Uh oh. Then, amazingly enough, a gold in sparring. My dad always used to call me his “Shrieking Violent,” and I guess he wasn’t wrong. That made me District Champ in sparring, and that means I get to compete at the ATA World Championships for the title of World Champ in my age and rank group. That was also most definitely not in any of my plans before the last few months.

I’m so glad that God has better plans for me than I do for myself. I know that I would have never expected, when I was in end-stage liver failure, to ever really recover, let alone be able to compete in a very physically demanding martial art. Heck, my original plan didn’t even include my amazing husband or awesome kids. I wouldn’t even want my original plan anymore.

Lately, the rain has been interfering with a lot of people’s plans. Even when it sets you back, keep moving forward, and trust that God will bring it right in the end. It may not be what you had in mind, but it might be even better.