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.

Image Credit: Bing Images

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.

Image Credit: pinimg.com

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.

Portrait of a Servant Girl – Carol’s Story – Part 4

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

“As I was reeling from the separation and divorce from my husband, I was also caring for my father who was suffering from dementia,” Carol said, continuing with her story. I sat in the upstairs office at her home along with her and my sister Tiffany who has been friends with Carol for 18 years.

The harsh irony of this part of Carol’s story was palpable. I certainly didn’t expect her to tell me that she’d cared for the man who was controlling and abusive to her, her mother, and her siblings.

I must have looked surprised because she went on. “Yes, after my mother died, I inherited my father. He couldn’t live alone, so I brought him home with me. Within a couple of months, his dementia became so bad that we had to put him in a memory care center.”

Carol talked about visiting him daily, early in the morning, when he was at his best. “He had ‘Sundowners Syndrome,’”she explained, “so he was more lucid and pleasant earlier in the day and confused and agitated in the evenings.“

This was yet another painful experience that involved her father. But, as she talked about those months, she actually smiled. “At the time, taking care of my father was very painful, but now those memories bring laughter. Daddy was always trying to get to the coal mine,” she said. “Most days I found him sitting by the door waiting for his ride to work. I would try to redirect his thoughts and tell him it was his day off.”

She stopped and smiled to herself, and I realized she called him ‘daddy’. Throughout the interview, she referred to him as ‘father’ but, in reliving the memories of caring for him during his illness, and recalling the humorous times, she called him ‘daddy’.

“He was always looking for his keys,” she continued, shaking her head but smiling a little. “And one morning we worked and worked for a long time trying to jump-start his wheelchair!”

She paused. Her eyes were far away, but she wore a pleasant expression, one of nostalgia and happiness.

“That day was the best!” She laughed.

She looked at me, and her thoughts came back to the room. To the present day and our interview.

“I had the opportunity to read the Bible to him,” she said, satisfaction in her voice. “We talked about his relationship with Jesus.”

Carol shared that the week before he died, he saw angels.

“I had to write his eulogy,” she told me. “The morning after he died, I got up, and the words just flowed from my pen. I wrote about how he had to raise himself, never had a father, lived in a boarding house, and went to work in the coal mine when he was 13.” Her voice was clear and strong as she described this. Her face was calm and resolute. “When I was writing the eulogy, God showed me that my father had learned to survive by controlling at a very young age. I realized that he did the best he could with what he had.”

Carol’s voice was calm and peaceful. I was amazed to see her reliving all those painful memories – abuse from her father, cancer, divorce, caring for her father in his old age and sickness – with… was it joy? Joy because of how those trials deepened and strengthened her relationship with God? Joy because of the redemption she experienced both for herself and for other broken relationships in her life?

“I thank God for the time I had with my father before he died,” she said after she had been quiet for a while. “ I thank Him for revealing all this to me and for helping me to love and to forgive my father. I have peace about that now.”

What a beautiful story of love, mercy, and grace! And isn’t this what God has done for us? We neglect Him. We abuse Him. We want Him to do things our way. Yet He patiently waits. He cares for us when we need Him. He redeems us when we come to our senses and allow Him to take His rightful place in our hearts. And, most amazing of all, He loves us the whole time.

Carol’s marriage ended in July 2001, and her father died in September 2001. For the next few years, she rarely went anywhere other than to church.

“Finally, my sister and my daughter told me I needed to get a life. They asked, ‘what do you want to do?’ Well, I always wanted to take Shag dance lessons,” she shrugged, “so I decided to do that.”

Carol signed up for lessons and showed up for class on the first day. She didn’t know one other soul in the room. However, a sweet lady saw her come in by herself and asked Carol to sit at her table.

“We talked a little while, and then she said, ‘I have a friend you just have to meet!’”

The lady told Carol about a man named Ed Jones, a widower who lost his wife to ALS.

“She talked about him for a while, and I said I would be willing to speak with him on the phone,” Carol explained. “He called me, and we spoke for a while, and I invited him to a party I was having at my house the next month, December 2003. He came to the party, and we had a nice time talking. He even stayed to help me clean up. Several busy months passed, and we connected again in February 2004 and were married that May.”

100_2192.JPG

Carol and Ed Jones

When Carol married Ed, she inherited a wonderful family: his children and grandchildren including his youngest granddaughter who was a toddler at the time. Carol was thrilled to have a grandchild who lived close.

“I got to see her every week,” Carol beamed.

We spoke a little about Ed’s family, and then, as if on cue, we heard a deeper voice from downstairs say, “Do I need to pull out the guest bed up there?”

Tiffany laughed, “That is Mr. Ed’s way of saying it’s time to go!”

I looked at my phone. It was after 10 PM. We had been talking for over two hours!

We spoke for another minute or two about some of Carol’s work in the church: she’s been on a mission trip to Guyana to help build a youth center. She’s planned church fundraisers and other ministry events. She serves in the kitchen in the summer youth camp. She’s been a delegate for her church at the annual conference. She volunteers in the church office.

“I’ve also been on an outstanding trip to the Holy Land and participated in the Methodist Church’s Emmaus walk. I experienced an enormous spiritual growth on Emmaus,” she explained.

I knew it was very late and that Tiffany and I need to go, but I wanted to wrap up with one final question.

“What would you like people to know about Jesus?” I asked her.

She listed many important things about Him that she’s learned in her life.

“He will never leave you or forsake you,” she began. “You can always trust Him. He will give you peace, and joy, and be the best friend you could ever want. You have to pray and study the Bible to grow this relationship though. It doesn’t happen on its own.”

As we were standing to leave, she said, “I’m not saying there won’t be any more valleys in my life, but I have the assurance that God will go through them with me.”

I know that she recently experienced another valley this past spring when she had hip replacement surgery.

“I also know that the Bible tells us that when we are weakest, He is strongest. I have certainly found that His strength is enough for me.“

ec9d1d6804ab781864c9fa52093d8753.jpg

Photo Credit: Pinimg.com