When God Changes Your Plans

I should be packing the last item in my carry-on bag and checking that I have enough changes of clean underwear 😉

But, I’m not. I emptied what I’d already packed and put away my bags last night.

I should be checking into my flight on the American Airlines app.

But, I’m not. I canceled my flight yesterday.

I should be flying out of Charlotte tomorrow morning at 9:40 and landing in Cincinnati around 11:30am.

But, I’m not. I’ll be home in Monroe instead.

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Three friends and I began planning this trip in January. We met when we started Flourish Writers Academy at the beginning of 2021 (part of Flourish Writers). After we got connected and started meeting regularly outside of academy events to talk about our writing and to share prayer requests and praises, we decided to travel from our home states (NC, FL, CA, and MI), spend the weekend of April 30-May 2 together in Cincinnati, and attend Flourish Writers LIVE on May 1.

But we aren’t.

One friend tested positive for Covid-19 this past Monday and began the necessary 10-day quarantine.

Another friend’s mom fell over the weekend and had surgery for her injuries on Tuesday. Our friend decided she needed to stay with her mom to help in her recovery.

That left two of us.

Officially, we could have still gone. But part of the reason we were so excited about going was to get to meet each other in person and spend time together. When it became obvious that everyone couldn’t go, she and I decided we’d cancel our plans as well.

Let’s be honest: We really didn’t cancel our plans though.

God did.

At this point, I don’t know His reason for doing it. I may never know why, or He may reveal it at some future time.

But, I can tell you this, I am at peace with it.

I eagerly anticipated this trip since I bought my plane ticket in March. I was looking forward to the content of the writers conference itself. I was also excited to meet Mindy and Jenny – the women who created Flourish Writers and who would lead the event. I was looking forward to being refreshed, encouraged, and inspired anew in my writing.

However, I trust God. If this trip didn’t happen, it was for my good – it was for the good of my three friends as well. There was something else we needed to do this weekend or something God was protecting us from. Or it just wasn’t in God’s timing for us to go right now. Or some other reason that only God knows.

Has God ever canceled your plans?

Maybe it was something relatively small like my current example – a weekend trip with friends.

Or maybe it was something big.

You expected to be married by a certain age, but you’re still single.

You assumed marriage would last forever, but you’re divorced.

You planned to have children, but you’re still childless.

You thought your child would stay on the right path but now he or she is wayward.

You wanted a certain job or a promotion, but those doors haven’t opened.

You thought a move to a new house or a new town or a new state would make things better, but the move didn’t happen or your situation didn’t change even when your address did.

God interrupts.

God cancels plans.

God changes plans.

God makes new plans.

The next time God cancels your plans, it’s ok to be disappointed. It’s ok to be upset or even angry. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to scream. But don’t stay in that dry, dreary place.

Take some time in quiet to talk with Him. You can express your feelings. God can handle your anger, frustration, or hurt feelings. He isn’t surprised by your response. In fact, He already knows how you feel; he’s just waiting for you to talk to Him about it so He can show you what He has planned instead.

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Ask Him to reveal to you why you missed the opportunity. Why things didn’t go according to your plan. Then wait and listen to what He has to say. Ask Him to help you accept what He has to say. Ask Him to help you trust Him more. Ask Him to help you with your unbelief. He is faithful to hear His children and to respond when we cry out to Him.

Prayer – Privilege or Chore?

Ask God to settle in your heart what a privilege it is to pray.  Ask Him to move you past the duty (“I have to pray”) to the privilege (“I have the freedom to pray.”)  He is Emanuel, God with us, and He wants to talk with us.

Because He is Emanuel and wants to spend time with His children, our prayer times should be seen as an advantage, a benefit, an opportunity.

We are at liberty to pray to our Creator.  He has given us favor to do so.  Even more, He has assured us that He hears our prayers.  In Jeremiah 29:12-13, for example, the Lord says, “When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.”  (MSG)

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Image Credit: Julie K. Gillies

A line in the hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” sums up my point: What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer.

We are afforded the opportunity to talk with God.  To listen to God.  To be close to God.

When we talk to God, we have the privilege of knowing who we are talking with.  We know His name.  We are able to call Him friend.  We are able to call Him Father.

We have the freedom to make requests of Him:  Seek me.  Save me.  Teach me.  Heal me. 

We have the benefit of knowing He is always near, never far.

We have the advantage of time in quiet and stillness with Him.

Honestly, we can talk with Him anytime or anywhere because He is ever-present.

He desires us to talk with Him.  Sit with Him.  Cry to Him.  Lay our cares on Him.  Listen to Him.  Know Him.

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Image Credit: Shelbie-mae.com

Let us come to a place in our lives where we genuinely acknowledge the privilege = we are able to pray to God and have the confidence that He hears us.

Ask God to reveal your heart to you.  Do you see time with Him as a duty?  Something to be accomplished every day?  Checked off your list of tasks?  Is your time with God calculated?  Something you feel you must do to gain a desired outcome or response?

If this is where you are, don’t be discouraged.  Everyone has to start somewhere.

Or maybe you thought you already moved past this point and can’t figure out how you got back here.

Don’t let this get you down.  We go through seasons.  Life circumstances change.

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Image Credit:  Miracle Channel

The important thing to do is to realize when you find yourself in that place so you can pray and ask God for help.

Ask God to move you past the view that you have a duty to fulfill.  Ask Him to show you that you have been given freedom to enjoy something of a higher value: a relationship with God.  This plea for a deeper more genuine relationship is pleasing to God, and He will surely change your heart.

 

 

The Cliche Question

Why do bad things happen to good people?

A friend who desperately wanted to have a second child finally got pregnant after about three years.  When she and her husband went to the 18 week ultrasound, eager to learn the sex of the baby, there was no heartbeat.  She had to go to the hospital later that week to deliver a little boy who they’d never take home.  They named him Benjamin, held him a few minutes, and that was that.

I didn’t know how to talk to her about it.  We took them dinner a week or so later, and they asked us to stay and eat with them.  It was awkward, to say the least.

What do you say to someone who’s just had to give up their heart’s desire?

She told me, “I’ve been praying for God to use me.  I can’t get mad at Him when He does what I’ve been praying for him to do.”

That’s when I realized why this was happening to her.  It happened so she and her family could bring glory to God through their response.

We search and search for answers when bad things happen.  Why did this happen?  Why me?  Why us?  Did I do something wrong?  Is God mad at me?

But the answer is simple: all things – even the tough, the crappy, the hard, the ugly, the terrible – are an opportunity for us to glorify God.

{ This post was written a part of Five Minute Friday’s Weekly Blog Link Up – https://fiveminutefriday.com/linkup/ }

 

Portrait of a Servant Girl – Carol’s Story – Part 3

This week’s post is a continuation of Carol’s story in the Portrait of a Servant Girl series.

“I didn’t question God about the cancer,” Carol repeated at another point during our interview.  “But there was a time, years later, that I got very angry with Him. I remember being on my knees crying out to Him, ‘Is this what I get for being good?  I’ve lived my life for you!’” She stopped for a moment and took a deep breath.

“I was so broken,” she continued.  “I asked God, ‘Why would you do this to me?  You just don’t know how broken and rejected I feel!’”

She stopped again, and I could see her shoulders relax.  “After I said that to Him,” she went on, “there was a calm that came over me, and I got quiet.  I felt Him put His hand on my shoulder, and He reminded me of what He went through. He said to me, ‘I understand.  I was rejected, too.’”

There was another pause.

“After that, I still suffered from the rejection, but I did not complain,” she finished, matter-of-factly.

Thirty years prior to this encounter with God, in the mid 70’s, Carol had survived Stage IV colon cancer that metastasized to her lymph nodes.  Now, her world was falling apart again. Her husband of 33 years no longer wanted to be married to her.

“This certainly wasn’t the life I planned,” Carol said earnestly.  “My future looked hopeless. But then I had the encounter with God when He reminded me that He’d been kicked and spat on.  That only one of His disciples stayed with Him until the end. From that day on, my healing began.”

Carol commented that the divorce was worse than cancer.  When I asked her why, she explained that she had control of how she handled cancer, but she couldn’t control the rejection by her husband. That was something she never thought would happen.

“Like the cancer, the divorce brought me even closer to God.”  She explained. “He used the circumstances to grow my faith in Him.”

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Photo Credits: #GODisHOPE

If you’ve never experienced God’s provision during a storm in your life, this probably sounds insane – that you can grow closer to God during adversity.  Of course, it can go the other way easily. You can get angry at God because He’s allowed the storm, and you pull away from Him.

Or, you could turn towards Him, even run to Him, and fall into His arms like Carol did.

“When I was going through my divorce and long afterwards as I continued to suffer, I received encouragement from reading the Bible.  Many, many times God spoke to me through His Word and provided wisdom or the answer I needed in a particular situation,” Carol told me.

“Could you give me an example of something specific God said to you through His word that helped you in some way?” I asked.

She thought a moment, then said, “when someone hurts you, human nature is to hurt that person back.  We think revenge will make us feel better. But, God reminded me many times that it wasn’t up to me to exact revenge.  Romans 12:19 assures us that revenge is God’s task.”

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Lila Prints Etsy Shop

“What else did you learn?”

“Well, God taught me that a living prayer relationship with Him comes when we dare to level with Him.  When we dare to be honest with Him about how we feel…like when I complained to Him that He didn’t understand my brokenness and rejection.  When I got honest, He spoke clearly to me. I wasn’t making small talk anymore. I wasn’t pretending that my life was perfect anymore. I was on my knees with tears streaming down my face.  He came in and comforted me. This moved my relationship with God to a much deeper level.”

God also used Carol and her story to reach other people.  After the divorce, the Associate Pastor at Carol’s church in Wilmington, North Carolina approached her about sharing the adversity in her life with the church.

“She said, ‘People look at you and think you have no cares in the world,’ and she asked me to share my testimony as part of a worship service.”  Carol paused, and a smile tugged at the corners of her mouth.

“I was never one to speak in front of others.  I liked to organize and work behind the scenes,” she explained.  “I really didn’t want to do what she asked me to do.”

“What made you change your mind?”  I asked.

“I had so much faith and trust in the pastor who asked me.  I knew the Holy Spirit worked in her, and I knew that whatever she asked was from God.  I just couldn’t say no.”

Services at Carol’s church were televised, so after she spoke, the church began receiving requests for her to speak at other events.  This led to years of travel around the southeastern United States sharing her story at women’s events.

“When you are sharing your story, and God allows you to see that other people receive help from it, you’re healed as well.  This is another way God supported me during this time.”

Carol stopped for a moment then continued, “plus I was driving a lot, so there was lots of time to pray, and talk to God, and listen.”

Then, she shrugged and added, “What good would the bad things be if you didn’t share them with others so you could help them, too?”

Please join me next week for the conclusion of Carol’s story.

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