Change of Plans

While not as obsessive as some, I would definitely call myself a planner. I'd say it has less to do with being hyper-organized and more to do with the fact that I like to control my schedule. (Don't we all?) I wouldn't really enjoy someone else planning my day, my activities, my meals, or even my reading list. (Wait... did I just describe college? ha!) Even if you're fairly spontaneous, you have a plan for your day or week or month or year. 

I don't know about you, but my plans don't always turn out like I intended. For example, this morning I had grand plans to make some "apple pie oatmeal" recipe that I'd pinned forever ago. (Lesson number one: if Pinterest claims that some recipe is the any type of superlative- "easiest," "yummiest," "fastest"- don't fall for it.) Although I guess I can't blame Pinterest for what happened. I wasn't feeling too hot and must have been really out of it, because even though I followed the instructions to the letter, my own Ashley-ness stepped into save ruin the day. 

I thought I'd add another dash of cinnamon, just for fun. (This was after Mamaw sliced up my apple so I wouldn't have to deal with a knife. My level of spaz knows no bounds.) But unbeknownst to me, the cinnamon container, unlike every other spice jar, did NOT contain those little holes that keeps the spice from falling out like a great, sneeze-inducing cloud. That's right... my "dash" of cinnamon was pretty much a cinnamon BOMB dropped right onto the unsuspecting bowl of my oatmeal. I tried to salvage it but... no. Into the trash it went.

That was Oatmeal Round One. Not to be deterred from my (inexplicable) desire for oatmeal (seriously... I never crave that stuff), I grabbed a packet of instant oatmeal, used half water and half milk, and threw it in the microwave. Normally I used water but I know I should drink milk other than just with cookies and for whatever reason, this morning felt like a good time to start. When the oatmeal finished in the microwave, I decided to pour in just a tad more milk (why did I keep adding stuff today??) and immediately was met with a smell that could only indicate that the milk had gone very, very bad. 

"Mamaw, is this milk sour?"
"Oh, yeah... I meant to throw that out yesterday."

Serves me right... I usually check the date on milk obsessively but hey, that would have cut this little story short! That did it though... a cinnamon bomb and rotten milk. Mamaw noticed my crestfallen face and said, "Don't be undone!" (Ha... has she been reading too much Grace Livingstone Hill?) But, alas, I was undone and dumped my second bowl of uneaten oatmeal into the trash, poured myself a cup of coffee, and returned to the couch to question why in the world I had wasted so many ingredients and so much time (okay, half an hour, but still) on something I never want to eat. 

Ugh. My oatmeal plans were thwarted, to say the least. But while that's a semi-amusing story (April laughed throughout when I told her, but then she's always my best audience), I know that sometimes I make much more important plans and those don't work out like I thought, either. Certainly the last year, even though I'm thankful for it, has not gone according to my plans. As a person who likes to keep to the schedule and definitely be on time, I'm not big on the words, "Change of plans... let's do _________ instead."

A high school classmate just lost her dad to cancer... that wasn't in her plan. One of my sister's bridesmaids lost her week-old baby... did she plan that? Did dozens of family members and friends in Paris plan for their loved ones to be gunned down at work this week? My cousin is battling breast cancer. She has a husband and three little kids. Whatever they envisioned for 2015, surely chemo and surgery were not in their plans. Nobody pencils in "receive terrible news" or "have my life changed forever." 

My devotion this morning talked about being flexible versus having a plan. The actual lesson was about being prepared to serve God but also flexible about His timing and direction. Of course that applies to ministry, but we have plans for life. We have schedules, day planners, calendars, to-do lists, goals, and dreams. There's nothing wrong with those things... I have them myself! But even our best-laid plans can and will be interrupted at a moment's notice. How do we become okay with that? Can I just shrug my shoulders and say, "No problem"? It's much harder than that, and it may mean letting go of a dream, saying goodbye to a timetable, to relinquishing the white-knuckled grip on whatever it is we can't bear to see change.

A few months ago in choir practice, our music minister said that some circumstances we go through and trials we experience may only serve the purpose of bringing glory to God... and that's enough. Wow... we say that, but do we really mean it? If our plans are set aside, rearranged, or scratched completely, is it enough that God get glory from an otherwise awful situation? 

I'm not suggesting anything as trite or unfeeling as to suggest that we "roll with the punches" or "shake it off." Even knowing God is at work doesn't always change the fact that losing a loved one, facing cancer, or dealing with a broken heart can cause seemingly unbearable pain. I cannot and do not presume to imagine how awful your situation may feel. But I also know that it didn't just "happen." It was not the result of coincidence, or karma, or a mysterious alignment of the planets, or bad luck. The Creator of the universe, in his omniscience, allowed His plan to override your own. That doesn't make God cruel or unfeeling. 

On the contrary, He loves us so much that He literally gave His life for ours. That kind of sacrifice hardly suggests a pointless hurt. There IS a point to every change, every moment that strays from our tidy little calendar. When our plans are derailed, it's not "just because." We don't have to sit in bewilderment wondering what cosmic workings have caused our pain. I Thessalonians 4:13 says that we "sorrow not, even as others which have no hope." And that verse is a comfort, because without God's overwhelming love for us, much of what we face in life would seem hopeless at best.

When I directed a Christmas play last year, I may or may not have been known to be uptight fairly strict about "sticking to the script." (It may have have something to do with the fact that I wrote it?) But sometimes God's will involves a move "off script," and while a director may not appreciate any ad-libbing in a performance, God's script is always, always better than your original! 

As an adult, one of my favorite verses has come to be Isaiah 55:9, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." While I can only see right in front of me- the pain, hurt, confusion, sadness, and even anger- God sees the big picture, the end result, and "unexpected end." Does that mean that after a time, things go "back to normal" and our plans get put back in place? Not necessarily, but again... even our most thought-out, Bible-based, well-intentioned plans are inferior to God's sovereign one. 

I'm no expert in this... any trials I've experienced have been light compared to so many people I know and love. The ones mentioned above are especially heavy on my heart. This post isn't meant to remind us that our lives can change at any minute- we all know that, deep down. I have no desire to live in fear of what may happen... worrying comes very naturally to me, anyway! But it IS a reminder that our plans, while good to have, ultimately have to surrender to the sovereign plan of God... the Grand Design that He has orchestrated from the beginning of time. 

Sometimes a change of plans is no big deal... like my breakfast this morning. Other times, that change turns our world upside down. My friend Andrea sings a song that says this: "When all your dreams are shattered, rest in His sufficient grace. We don't have to understand when God has another plan." Even in the midst of pain, our comfort can be found in the simple fact that God knows our names, HE has a plan, and the ultimate outcome will be for His glory. While we may not- and probably won't- see the good in it at the moment, we can place our faith in Christ. He's earned our trust. 

Please join me in praying for my cousin Bethany, her husband David, and their three children as Bethany begins treatment for aggressive breast cancer. Also pray for my cousin Brooke, her sister, as she flies in from Spain this week, my Aunt Debbi, my cousin Brandon, and their families.

Update: Bethany went home to be with Jesus early this morning. Please pray for her husband and their families.This is a heartbreaking tragedy- and certainly a drastic change of plans- and her loved ones need comfort and peace.  



  1. I'm heartbroken for you and your precious family. We will be praying for Bethany's husband and kids.

  2. Oh, this breaks my heart. I'm so so sorry.


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