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By Emelie Swonger

I am a planner. A connoisseur of organization. That girl who is (almost) always prepared. 
But if there’s anything I’ve learned over the last few years, it’s this: my plans will never be as bold and beautiful as God’s plans for my life.   

A North Dakota native, I wanted a college experience that would take me beyond the rolling prairies of my youth. I imagined myself moving to a big city where I could earn a degree in dance performance and pursue a lifelong career as a dance studio owner.  

I had amazing (if not overly ambitious) plans for my future. But thank goodness, our Lord knew better. 

During my senior year of high school, my life took an unexpected turn that changed my future plans dramatically. I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, a condition characterized by abdominal pain, fatigue, and severe anxiety. Suddenly, my days of dancing at the studio were replaced with long nights at home, struggling with frequent panic attacks and nearly constant pain. 

As I looked toward college, it became clear I needed to find a place where I could heal. By this time, I was beginning to have doubts about my dance studio dream. With my health picture crumbling, I didn’t know if a dance career was even possible.  

The moment I stepped foot on Northwestern’s campus, I knew I had found the place where I could begin my life again. Northwestern did not have a dance program, but I appreciated its faith-based community, strong academic reputation, and incredible theatre opportunities. Knowing that God had gifted me with a teacher’s heart, I decided to pursue education as an alternative to dance. Becoming a traditional classroom teacher seemed like a much more practical path than teaching dance full-time. 

Despite making the shift to an education major, however, I somehow ended up in an introductory public relations course during fall semester of my freshman year. Some people might say it was an accident, but looking back on it now, it is very clear that God wanted me to take that class. 

 Over the next few weeks, I fell in love with the public relations field and the powerful ways it can be used to tell stories for God’s Kingdom. Where I had previously dismissed the Lord’s call to become a dance studio owner, I was suddenly blessed with a degree that would prepare me to build a small business and communicate with prospective dance parents. As my health began to improve and my passions for dance and public relations started to collide, God’s plan became much clearer.  

Although I do not know where this new plan will lead me or whether my dream of opening my own studio is even plausible, I’m gradually learning that it’s OK to lean into the uncertainty, to trust that God will work all things together for the good. I can plan, I can organize, I can make elaborate flow charts all I want, but ultimately it is my Heavenly Father who is preparing the pathway. For “my thoughts” are not “His thoughts,” nor are “[my] ways, His ways” (Isaiah 55:8-9). It is my deepest prayer that I will surrender myself to that truth every day, fully embracing the plans God has in store for my life. 

Adoramus majorem Dei gloriam – for the greater glory of God!