Unexpected

Some months ago, a Facebook link in the flurry of the holiday season lead me to a five minute retelling of the Christmas story on Youtube. Presented by a collection of fair-haired children with thick New Zealand accents, the story opens in Heaven, as a young boy, portraying God, explains to the young angels around him how he plans to send His Son to earth as a tiny baby. This comes as a shock to the angels, who imagined Jesus’ entrance to be rather more spectacular, and who are scandalized by the idea of a birth in a manger.

However, after each proclamation of God’s plan, one tiny angel, wispy blond hair falling nearly over the large, round glasses perched on his nose, exclaims gleefully. Brilliant! They won’t be expecting that!

~

There’s a shelf of old journals, notebooks, devotionals, in my closet. Amidst meshing school books with home books, and re-sorting the worldly possessions I live with during the school year with the ones I utilize at home, I stood on the little painted step stool in the closet, reached high, finger tips barely skimming the tops of the little books. I’ve read some of them before, reliving the thoughts, worries, dreams, and ideas I had as a young teen. Today, standing still on the stool, the baby at my feet pulling baby dolls from their place in the closet, I flipped through an old notebook.

Pages lined with wide, italic handwriting, recounting sermons heard, Bible studies attended, personal prayers lifted to on high via the crumpled pages of a journal with a pink flower on it. Thirteen years old, even younger than that, I had dreams, thoughts, hopes for the future. I prayed big prayers, and held tight to faith, desperate hope, that what I asked would unfold, just as I had imagined.

Sometimes, my prayers were answered almost as I had hoped. Sometimes, I was bold like I asked. Sometimes, health came creeping back and lives continued on. Sometimes, though, I sat at a funeral, despite the lines dedicated to begging for healing for him, extend his life expectancy, let his little girl grow up with a daddy. Sometimes, timelines fell apart and days were derailed and relationships crumbled, despite my earnest prayers to the contrary.

But no matter if the answer to my prayer was yes, or a resounding no, what I watched unfold before me, what I lived, was never like what I had imagined. Rather, my ability to imaginatively anticipate the future fell short- falls short still- every time. I can hope, I can look forward, I can anticipate and prepare and dream and imagine. But when the days tick down and the hoped-for becomes what is right before me, I’m always surprised.

It’s never just what I expected.

So I mark vacations, meetings, trips, adventures, assignments on my calendar. And I get up and I live and I go and I come. And I keep my eyes open and my hands wide, because life will come and adventures will happen and lessons will be learned and dreams will become reality. And when it happens, it will be nothing at all like I envisioned.

And I’ll shake my head, shrug my shoulders, and smile, because I wasn’t expecting that.

~Natalia

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