27 Sep Plans Change by Jon Johansen

It’s interesting how the Lord modifies our arrangements, and shows us something better. Just recently that happened to me.

My twelve year-old daughter Abby and I traveled to a memorial service north of Seattle. As she sat next to me, on the grey seats of our aging Suburban, my grief seemed split between the death of my friend, and a realization that Abigail is quickly becoming a young lady.

As is so often the case, “windshield time” led to deeper conversation. Garbed in her little black dress and shiny sandals, with a sparkly, new purity ring on her finger, Abby asked why I was sad about the passing of my former discipler, Ray Westeren.

My eyes welled-up as I gently explained Ray’s tender mentoring during the early years of my matrimony. As the co-leader of my church’s “young marrieds” Sunday school, Ray taught me how to be a better man; under his leadership I began to (through the Spirit) be more kind and calm… more patient and pure.

Though life took Jill and me away from our Spartan apartment in King County, Ray and his wife Sherrill kept investing in us from afar. His accountant-like steadiness continued to balance my passionate personality. Since both of us fellas enjoyed football, on rides to and from his beloved Husky games I often benefitted from his wise advice.

As I offered this information to Abby I could feel deeper emotions rising up. I glanced around the cab of our SUV, hoping to find tissues for the memorial. There were none. Honestly, I dreaded my impending tears.

But when we arrived at the church in Lynnwood, on the heels of several other families, the secretary gently explained that the grieving widow’s email invitation had been unclear—the service was one full week away.

Faced with a long ride through Seattle at rush hour, I was tempted to grit my teeth and pout…but that didn’t happen. Instead, the Giver of Every Good and Perfect Gift impelled me to make the best of the day’s changed plans.

Abby and I ignored the slowing traffic around us, and began sharing from the heart. She asked questions about how to honor God with her choices in modesty, music, and movies. She learned a bit more about delaying dating. When snarled auto congestion let up a bit, we cranked songs and laughed while acting out a few goofy dance moves.

Since the loss of Ray had reminded me that my parents could be gone at any time, Abby and I turned east, toward my folks’ place in Issaquah. There Dad, seemingly more frail each time I see him, brightened when Abby enveloped him in a huge hug. Mom’s struggle with worry—a weakness she and I both battle—was pushed away while we sat… and visited… and shared a meal. Afterward, Abby and I lingered a bit before embracing them and saying goodbye. Little did we know, the biggest blessing of the day lay in front of us. She and I traveled back to Seattle—all dressed up and ready for a special evening out.

We arrived at Anthony’s on the waterfront. When I sheepishly explained to their hostesses that we didn’t have reservations, but that we were on an impromptu daddy/daughter date, the ladies grinned and sat us outside.

While I made sure to open doors for my girl, and pulled back her chair while she sat down, I secretly wished that she would, one day (hopefully far in the future) humbly expect to be cherished by any future fella who tries to court her.

As the two of us overlooked the white ferries, dark green water, and sun-reflecting windows of skyscrapers, smells of saltwater and freshly grilled seafood filled the air.

We visited over her peach-infused cheesecake and my blackberry cobbler. And as we quietly chatted, my thoughts returned to a sobering fact: Abby is two-thirds of the way toward going off to college. My heart sank a bit, only to recover when, just before we prepared to leave, Abby smiled and uttered,
“This was my favorite daddy/daughter date ever.”

Bliss.

Funny thing is, just as God made something wonderful out of yesterday’s changed plans, He has done the same with my career.

While I was once prepared to work ‘til retirement as a public school counselor, He made it very clear that He had something grander for me—a “perfect fit” at Lighthouse.

Here I get to openly share about the One who changed my heart and blessed my life. Here I can, with His help, show our sons and daughters a loving blend of justice and mercy. Prayerfully I will be a “Ray Westeren” on their journey… someone to talk to whom, although imperfect, loves them enough to infuse God’s goodness into their lives.

As I tap out these last few words, there is a small, blue and grey cross next to my laptop—a gift, pieced together with magnets, by joyful staff member JoAnna Sturgis’ boys and unexpectedly presented to me. On that recent afternoon, I had to smile.

From then on, I’ve kept it assembled and placed where I can see it each time I sit at my desk. For here I am honored to openly proclaim my faith in Jesus (after my many years in the state’s education system, you have no idea how good it feels to write His name).

I’m with you now—LCS families and staff members—in a place where I can smile and utter,
“This is already my favorite job ever.”

Bliss.

 

Thank you, Father, for changing my plans.


Jon Johansen