I Have a Plan for You

I woke up early, pulled my suit pants and jacket out of the closet for the first time in months, and as I prepared for the day, I couldn’t help but think, is this even real? I slipped on my one pair of nude high heel shoes and headed out the door.

That morning, briefcase in hand, they walked me into my new office on the top floor of a building in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. The office was beautiful, complete with big windows and a large desk with two monitors, a laptop, and plenty of drawers. 

And it was perfectly clean. No dirty fingers, clothes, or shoes strewn across the floor.

None of it felt real.  

It was my first day in many years back in the corporate world. A part of me felt like I was living in a Hallmark movie or in one of those movies where a stay-at-home mom goes back to this awesome corporate job, like in the movie “Mr. Mom” or “Daddy Daycare,” except my husband was still working. 

At the same time, there was this quiet voice constantly nagging, reminding me that I was only here because I had failed at everything I had tried to do on my own. I had sold out. I was now “owned” by a corporation. My time was no longer my own, something I used to encourage others in my own businesses to work towards–time freedom.

It was all very confusing. A well of emotions all messy inside, and I didn’t know what to do with it all.

There was a time where this was my dream, and all I wanted to do was climb the corporate ladder. Right out of college, I had spent a handful of years working my way quickly through the ranks of a fast-growing internet tech company. However, when I became pregnant with my second child, and we made the decision for Trent to take a job in Nicaragua, I walked away.

Over the years, I’ve had these moments when I really longed to go back. Moments where I was swimming in diapers and crying babies. Moments where I cried and cried at the loss of my career. While I loved the time I had with my kiddos and took advantage of each moment with them, it took a long time to come to terms and be peaceful with “just” being a stay-at-home mom.

Those of you who are career-minded and also stay-at-home moms know what I mean by that. We know we’re not “just” stay-at-home moms because we understand the importance of what we’re doing, but that doesn’t take away from the times where it still feels like “just.” Where we’re tired and even though we know our work is important, it doesn’t feel that way when we’re exhausted, cranky, and having to calm a teething baby.

Given all of that, one might think that my first day back to work would be one filled with excitement and adventure, not one of confusion and doubt. But the truth is that I’ve made a lot of changes over the past eight years, went through a major life transformation, body transformation, heart transformation, and, most importantly, a spiritual transformation–or conversion. So my dream of climbing the corporate ladder changed.

In addition to building (and then walking away from) two network marketing businesses, I had found a new dream in coaching women and was in the process of starting a women’s organization. It brought so much joy seeing a woman’s eyes light up as she gained new confidence. Where she didn’t believe in herself, I saw her learning to love and forgive and find a new life and energy, especially in the way she saw herself in light of God.

With time, I also got back into the tech world and helped build a group texting company. I imagined to life the branding, website, videos, automation, and together with friends and their ideas, we worked to build it out.  

It was wonderful and overwhelming all at once. I put in hours upon hours working on these dreams that rarely ever covered the basic costs, much less provided an income. The businesses financially were at a loss, and we were financially struggling.

Everything changed one day when I laid it all at the feet of Jesus. I told him how I longed to be His hands, feet, and heart, but that I knew I was a hot mess and would mess everything up if it was left up to me. So I asked Him to take it all. I told Him, “I’m your hot mess. You take it. Fix it. It’s a big job, but I know you’ve got this.”

I can actually tell you the date when I said this because I wrote it all in a journal during my morning prayer on May 23, 2019. I’ll never forget that day because it’s the day He literally began to strip me of everything.

It hurt like heck, and yet there was this peace that surpassed understanding underneath it all. “Jesus, I surrender myself to you, take care of everything” became my mantra. I prayed that prayer over and over. 

Through the heartbreak of broken friendships, lost business, and lost partnerships, He was there. Even though I had my moments, I trusted that He was answering prayers and making
a way.

michelle hillaert

Through the heartbreak of broken friendships, lost business, and lost partnerships, He was there. Even though I had my moments, I trusted that He was answering prayers and making a way.

That winter, something quite out of the blue happened. A friend approached me and asked if I’d consider applying for a job. My immediate reaction was to laugh and say, “No way!” The last thing I wanted was a job. I didn’t want anyone else owning my time. This is what I had been fighting so hard against with all of my other endeavors. Why would I even consider it?

She mentioned it, though, and I couldn’t unhear it. I thought about it–a lot–and had a conversation with my husband, Trent. We were drowning in debt and struggling to pay our bills at the end of each month. Getting a job would bring some much-needed relief, yet at the same time it felt impossible. But the seed had been planted, so I asked more questions.

Every requirement I would have for going back to work was met with this job. It was also something that I knew I would absolutely enjoy doing, and there would be days where I would be able to work from home. 

It was a good job, and if I wanted to apply, I’d have to fight for it. It wasn’t going to be handed to me.

Trent and I prayed about it, and then with peace that we were making the right decision, I applied for the job. Throughout the entire interview process, I prayed, “Father, please don’t let me get this job if this is not in Your plan. I’ll do my best, but if this isn’t what you want, I don’t want it.”

From the day they told me I got the job to the day that I was walking into my new office, it all felt like a dream. I kept waiting to wake up and find out this wasn’t real.

The dressing up in professional clothes felt surreal. The more than an hour ride to work felt surreal. Setting up my new office and sitting down to work felt surreal.

And yet, here I was. Starting a job working eight hours a day, five days a week. It was beginning to sink in.

It wasn’t long until I found a live feed of a beautiful adoration chapel in Poland and started to keep that up on my third screen. Throughout the day, I’d find myself just staring at Jesus, sitting in the heart of Mary (the monstrance), and asking Him…why? Why am I HERE?

I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God opened these doors for me and for our family. What I didn’t know was why. And even though God has always eventually shown me His plan, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit forgotten–I began to work on things that didn’t seem as important as helping women transform their lives or building my own business.

I was battling voices of failure. I was sure God had inspired those other dreams, but now, sitting here, staring at my adoration live feed, I just couldn’t help but continuously come back to the same question. “Why? Why am I here?”

Going back to work was hard. I had to constantly learn new things. I had to learn to trust myself, let go of perfectionism, and confidently move forward. It was emotionally exhausting, and every time my boss would ask me what my goals were, I didn’t know what to say. Everything had changed. I hadn’t dreamed of climbing a corporate ladder in years. I felt lost.

This past September, I made the long trip back to Texas to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday. We had the opportunity to celebrate Mass at their Loreto on the Plains Lifecare Center. After communion, as I was kneeling before the tabernacle in their small chapel, my heart was aching. 

Being home reminded me of how much I longed to be Christ’s hands, feet, and heart, and even though I was confident that He made a way for this new job, I was fighting not feeling like a sell-out.

Every once in awhile, I can clearly hear the voice of God in my heart. That day, in that moment,  I heard Him clearly whisper into my heart, “I have a plan for you.”

I hesitated with my usual, “Was that really you, God?” But I knew it was, so I knelt there, Christ still inside, pondering those words, “I have a plan for you.” I heard him emphasize the word “plan.” Like he was saying, “Michelle, you know I love you. Stop worrying. Stop doubting. Just BE. Be present and let me complete this work that I have started in you.”

I had been so caught up in all of the failure, the change, and the questioning, that I had forgotten a word the Lord gave me several years ago: “Blessed is she who trusted the Lord’s word to her would be fulfilled.” The words of Elizabeth to Mary. The word that spoke so clearly into my heart that as long as I cling to Him, He’s got this, and He will always lead the way.

“I have a plan for you.” These words were words of TRUST. I knew in my heart, 100%, that going back to work was a way that God had made in our lives and that even though I couldn’t see it now, He had and still has a plan.

I headed back home with a newfound peace. He has a plan for me. I might not know what that plan is, but if He’s proven anything, it’s that His way is always better than anything I could dream up on my own.

When I work now, I often take a minute here or there to stare into my little adoration chapel in Poland. The golden glow of the sun streaming through the stained-glass windows surrounds Our Lady and her Son, and I ask, “Why am I here?”

But instead of questioning, I’m asking Him to open my eyes to His plan as it unfolds. As I’m letting go of perfectionism, gaining a newfound confidence, and learning and growing daily.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned through all of this is that in the end, it doesn’t matter so much what we do, as long as we do it with great love, whether it’s wiping a runny nose, changing a diaper, running a meeting, or revamping the corporate structure of a business. If we do these things with love and for God’s greater glory, then He will use us and what we do to save souls, convert hearts, and bless the world.

We just need to trust, act, love, be humble, and live in the grace of the present moment, entrusting our future and essentially–our legacy–to Him.

And our God, in His mercy and greatness, will take all things and use them for the good of those who love Him.

He has a plan for you, my friend.

Jesus, I surrender myself to you, take care of everything.

Jesu ufam tobie.

About Author

Michelle Hillaert brings more than 25 years of experience in roles relating to technology and communications to GIVEN. With an undergraduate degree in Communication Arts from Franciscan University of Steubenville, her portfolio includes emergency management, web, application and graphic design, marketing and social media management, podcasting, and online consulting. In her previous employment, Michelle played a major role in the development and improvement of internal systems as well as the development and expansion of the Quality Management System. She also managed processes and communication with stakeholders in major application builds of state-run programs. In addition to this work, Michelle has dedicated herself to helping women live their full potential as a doula, life and fitness coach, motivational speaker and author. Having four daughters, nine sisters, and having journeyed with many women over the years, Michelle has experienced first-hand how as women, we often hesitate to respond with our gifts because we don’t recognize that we are uniquely gifted and that the world – especially those we encounter on a daily basis – needs us to share these gifts. In light of this, she has a passion and proven capacity for flourishing young women in the Church through mentoring and leadership development. Michelle has found that transformation often happens in those quiet moments of prayer and reading the works of the saints, such as the “Dialogue” by St. Catherine of Siena and makes daily reading and continual growth an essential part of her day. Outside of work, Michelle has been married for over 23 years to her husband, Trent. They reside in Front Royal, Virginia and together have six children, 2 in college and four still at home, along with three dogs, a cat and 27 chickens. She is a soccer mom and singer who loves leading praise and worship. “It’s only when we truly know how unspeakably much we are loved by our Father and how He is constantly pursuing us – even in those moments when we’re running in the opposite direction – that we can come to understand that our identity lies in His love. With this knowledge, we are able to step out in confidence and as inspired by St. Pope John Paul II, live fearlessly.”

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