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To all graduates: Heads up, your life will not go as expected

Published: Sunday, June 12 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

This is the time of year when we observe a wave of graduations and listen to myriad speeches given to graduates who are embarking on a new phase of life.

I would just like to add a little thought from the Unexpected Life: Plan, prepare, dream and go forward with faith — but wait. Heads up, your life will NOT go as expected.

I had it all planned: I would graduate from high school; go to college; find a husband who would love me and be faithful to me forever and have six adorable, healthy, handsome, funny children, who would love their siblings and be eternally grateful that their dad and mom raised them in the gospel. Consequently, they would spend their lives serving others and earnestly pursue returning to their Heavenly Father.

Those were good and righteous desires. How could they NOT come to pass, especially if I planned, prepared, dreamed and moved forward with faith?

The good news is that I did graduate from high school and went to college, but I have had to rewrite the rest of the story. My husband hasn’t appeared on the scene, my six adorable children have yet to be born, and, well, life isn’t anything like I had planned it would be.

The truth is, we may or may not get married within the season that we had hoped; bear children; have healthy and obedient children; stay married; outlive our children; have a job; own a home; always have the best friend who we thought we could never live without; or be as healthy or physically able as we are right now.

As hard as we may try to plan for the future and try do everything perfectly, life will not go as we expect it to go. But don’t worry, that is the way it is supposed to be.

Going to "Holland" is part of the plan!

It wasn’t usually talked about very much while we were in our youth, or maybe we just don’t recognize it because it is hidden in the lessons on "trials," but everyone travels to "Holland" — the unexpected life.

Therefore, when life starts to take its unexpected turns, and we feel discouragement, hurt, sadness, disappointment and regret, it doesn’t necessarily mean that something went wrong or that it is a bad thing that has happened, but it does mean that we are faced with some important decisions.

We will need to decide what attitude we will take and how we will deal with our unanticipated circumstances. Will we turn to God or away from him? Who we will listen to and take advice from? How and where we will spend our time? How important are our commitments, and will our new circumstances be a learning experience or not?

What happens in our life is not always as important as the decisions that follow.

Walt Disney said, “Decisions are easy, when values are clear.”

If we decide right now what we value most, then when life throws us a curve ball, our decisions will be easier to make, and the results of those decisions will be so much better.

I’m not saying that decisions are easy when our heart is full of disappointment, loneliness, discouragement and seasons of hopelessness. However, they are a lot easier when our values are clear. We don’t have to decide with every unexpected turn which course in life we will pursue.

I don’t know the exact day or time in my life when it occurred, but somewhere along the way, I decided that there was nothing I valued more than returning back to my Heavenly Father. Fortunately, while I was relatively young, my heart was sealed, and I knew that nothing was more important to me than that.

Consequently, this eliminated many of the tough decisions that would come my way. Regardless of how uncomfortable or painful my circumstance were, I wasn’t faced with the decision of giving up or giving in. Those decisions were made when my values became clear.

So, as you embark on a new phase of life, I would suggest that you write down the things you value most and commit yourself to them. Perhaps it is happiness, family, the gospel, your membership in the church, integrity, the companionship of the Holy Ghost or your reputation. Then, when your life takes its inevitable twists and turns, you will not be derailed or deterred but will continue to make decisions that will move you forward in the direction you had always planned and dreamed.

The journey may look different from you originally thought it would be. Life will not go as you expect it to, but remember, your decisions are easier when your values are clear.

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