When God’s Plan Is Revealed
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
For those who are not familiar with the story, I will retell it.
Soon after I was incarcerated in April of 2010, I spoke with my sister Kathy and told her that the amount of mail an inmate received was tabulated to help determine the presence – or absence – of a strong social and family network. Kathy reached out to her Bible Study group and encouraged the women in it to write to me.
Sometimes God’s miracles are very tiny and seemingly insignificant. In this case, the miracle came in the mail in the form of a little note with Jeremiah 29:11 printed on the front, and a short note of encouragement from a woman I had never met, written inside. I taped the scripture up next to the mirror in my cell where it remained for the entire 4+ years I was incarcerated, and I wrote a note of thanks to the sender.
The friendship with the woman who sent the note, Diane Woodall, grew from that point and continues to this day and her importance in my life would take pages to fill. She led me to Washington DC, where I now live, and to Central Union Mission, where I now work, and Jeremiah 29:11 has remained, to me, as the singular most encouraging and motivating verse in the entire Bible.
Jeremiah 29:11 helped me face who I had allowed myself to become and to see that God had a better version of me in mind when I was born.
Jeremiah 29:11 helped me to put the gifts and abilities God had blessed me with to work in the Mission kitchen, first as a volunteer, and then as a member of the Mission staff.
Jeremiah 29:11 helped me face a particularly trying, and challenging time when I was falsely accused of something and was almost forced to leave the Mission.
And Jeremiah 29:11 helped me to present an idea to the Mission’s executive director, an idea that I hoped would help others to find that better version of themselves.
Mission Muffins was born almost 4 years ago and today is becoming an important part of the Mission’s efforts to help others to help themselves.
As an outgrowth of my role as the manager of Mission Muffins, I was asked to develop an 8 week “Introduction to Baking” class for men in the Mission’s Restoration and Transformation Program. Each week, we learned a little bit about different aspects of baking, but more important, we learned about ourselves and about God’s desire to guide us and to encourage us as we all moved forward with the new lives He is helping us to create.
And I learned that I had truly discovered God’s plan for me.
The connections that I was able to make with the men in my class as I tried to show them how scripture plays a role in every aspect of our lives, including in our work lives; as we shared stories of the struggles of incarceration; as we shared stories of our struggles with sin – those connections have humbled me to the point of tears at times, as I have thanked God for never, ever giving up on me and for instantly coming to my rescue when I cried out for help almost 10 years ago.
Normally, when our men complete classes or training of some sort, we give them a certificate. Certificates are good reminders of what they have accomplished and provide recognition for growth in a particular area.
But the class had become so personal to me and so meaningful, that I felt I had to do something a little more to help these gentlemen remember our time together, so I made a commemorative ‘scrapbook’ in the hopes that it might provide a more vivid reminder of what they had learned and shared.
The books arrived today and it is difficult to explain the emotions that coursed through me as I opened one and turned the pages slowly, reliving those moments I so want the men who will receive them to relive.
I took some screen shots of the book from the website I used to design the book and would like to share a few with you. I’m sure the impact will be nothing like what I felt when I first opened the actual book, but the feeling that I was actually living Jeremiah 29:11 and that I had really discovered God’s plan for me was so overpowering and humbling that I thought a peek might help anyone reading this to at least get a sense of what I am talking about.
The point of sharing all of this with you is, simply: God does, indeed have a plan for each and every one of us. Unfortunately, we often get so wrapped up in the business of living that we fail to see the little messages He provides. Something as small and seemingly insignificant as a note of encouragement from someone you’ve never met can hold the key to unbelievable joy and purpose.
I pray that each one of you has either discovered, or is open to discovering, that version of you God intended you to be. I wish I’d discovered this version of me much earlier, but, in God’s timing, the night is still young.