Saturday night two of the kids had soccer scrimmages. We thought it was a great excuse to grab the grandmas, bring them along for an evening of visiting and watching the kids play. However, the sky had other plans. The clouds thought it was a fantastic night for a thunderstorm. After driving an hour to the location of Game #1, we sat in the car watching the sky flash with electricity and listening to booming thunder for over an hour. Then this game was cancelled altogether.
But you know what? We also ended up having a picnic in the car—if you count hot, salty, rosemary fries and chicken sandwiches smeared with creamy avocado from Smashburger a picnic, and I do. When the storm stopped, the sun came out revealing a spectacular full-arc rainbow. We had thirty minutes while the team warmed up, so we went on a lovely walk around the school grounds. We laughed, got caught up, and had a sweet family evening despite the weather.
What changes in plans have switched your schedule this week? How did you handle them?
Sunday night was date night. I put on lipstick, sprayed perfume, set up our kids with frozen pizzas and a movie, hugged them goodbye, and drove into the sunset with the man of my dreams. We pulled into the empty parking lot of the yummy Italian restaurant we’d planned on dining at to discover a “Closed” sign in their window.
Gratefully, I have a quick-thinking entrepreneurial husband who embraces changes in plans. He calls them “opportunities.” No lie, the man rubbed his hands together as if now that our date night had been hijacked, the world was his oyster. Fifteen minutes later we exited Kroger with a baguette, brie, a bottle of wine, and a couple of crisp apples—all the fixings for an impromptu dinner for two that didn’t involve me cooking, because please, date night. Our kids were surprised to see us. But you know what? We had a romantic evening on our screened-in porch. My husband and I talked for hours while dipping crusty bread in creamy cheese, and bonus, grocery goodies were way less expensive than dinner out would have been.
When your plans get turned upside down, what do you do? Panic? Get angry? Shut down? Start pointing fingers? Or look for opportunities? Figure out how to reallocate your time, look for ways to shuffle the pieces around to make a different picture, double up, juggle, or seize the day?
Here’s the deal. I do so much better when there’s a schedule. We have four kids and life gets crazy, and the only way to get everyone where they need to be when they need to be there and make sure we’re all fed on a daily basis is by planning it all out. I sleep better, breathe deeper, am more relaxed when I know what to expect. But plans change. All the time. The examples I gave are every day occurrences—the flight gets cancelled or an impromptu party breaks out or the meeting gets changed or someone gets sick or they win an award and the ceremony is tonight…and it’s out of our hands, and we have to adjust, cope, slide into Plan B. I’m also aware there are changes in plans that rip the carpet right out from under our feet, leaving us feeling helpless about how to move forward. But God is with us through all of it—the every day and the tragic. Right beside us. Loving us. We need to lean on Him when the changes are too hard to take on our own, and be open to what God has in store. Because He has so very much good for us planned.
I love the song, “Yes I Will,” by Vertical Worship. It starts, “I count on one thing. The same God who never fails, will not fail me now.” Oh gosh, amen! We cannot count on the weather or our health or the calendar or other people all of the time. But we can always count on one thing—God. He’s the one who is in control. He’s the one who will never change, never let us down.
And He is there in all of it. Every single thing.
So we are convinced that every detail of our lives is continually woven together to fit into God’s perfect plan of bringing good into our lives, for we are his lovers who have been called to fulfill his designed purpose. —Romans 8:28
So, when a curve ball comes your way today:
I guarantee sometime this week you will experience a change in plans. No matter how big or small, or exciting or jarring, I promise He is at work, for good. God’s plan is perfect. And He will never fail you.
In Atlanta we have the luxury of planting pansies in the fall and viewing their curious faces all winter long. That is how my grandma described their blooms -- as faces. If you look into a pansy’s velvet petals you can see its eager expression peeking out at you. It was my grandmother’s love for this flower, which drew me to Viola tricolor hortensis when I was a little girl. My favorites were the white petals with purple centers, or “faces”. They remain my favorite flowers today.
Since pansies are annuals, last years’ flowers had long since died and been pulled from the ground, never to be seen again. I hadn’t taken the time to plant even one flat of pansy seedlings this fall. Actually, I hadn’t found the time to do much of anything but work since September. My job had become especially demanding, due to a project which required me to fly weekly to Washington DC. Between airports, delayed flights, cancellations, taxi cabs, trains and countless hotel rooms, I hadn’t spent enough time with my husband, hadn’t returned phone calls from my parents, hadn’t sent birthday cards to my dearest friends, hadn’t taken the necessary time to come to terms with the death of my grandma, and certainly hadn’t made time to put pansies in the ground.
Perhaps by skipping the whole pansy planting process this autumn, I was putting off facing the reality that Grandma, the only grandparent I had ever known, had died.
My connection between her and the flowers was so strong. I told myself I was too busy for gardening enough times that I convinced myself it was true.
As I drove home from the airport one chilly November evening, I was overwhelmed by an empty pang in my heart. It had begun as a slight ache last Thursday, and had built up to a deep hollow throb after five days straight of deadlines, lists, conference calls and meetings. I hadn’t allowed any time for myself to read, to visit with friends and family or even to pray. I had tried to ignore this vacuous feeling. I had just kept going and going like a robot following programmed commands, forgetting about all of the things in life that gave me deeper meaning. The pain was especially great this particular evening due to a canceled flight, which delayed my getting home until long after my lonely husband was already in bed.
After fighting eight lanes of stop and go traffic for over an hour, caused by what appeared to be a fatal accident, I arrived frazzled and tired in my suburban neighborhood. As I pulled into my driveway, my headlights shone into the empty flowerbeds. By their beams, I glimpsed something white resting on the ground. I parked in the garage and walked around to the front yard to collect what I assumed was a piece of garbage and throw it away. But, I did not find any trash. Instead I found a lone white pansy with a purple face flourishing by itself in a barren bed of pine straw.
The determined flower had fought all odds to spring from a ripped up root, which is not bred for regrowth, and to return this year. It didn’t seem possible, and maybe it wasn’t. Yet, here was a perfect posy grinning at me and asking me from its remarkable face, why I too couldn’t break through the soil and let myself bloom.
If loved ones who have passed away can speak from the dead, I knew this was Grandma’s way of letting me know that although she had left this earth, she wasn’t really gone. Just like the pansy, which had been pulled from the dirt yet was still blossoming, my grandmother’s spirit would always flourish inside my heart.
Grandma would have never put work first. Her family and friends were the priorities in her world. She didn’t know the meaning of timetables or of deadlines. Although her life was simple, she was always happy and saw only the good in others and the beauty in the world around her.
It was time to open my heart and my eyes to the important things around me, to fill the empty hole inside me with the nourishment which only God, family and friends could give me. Work could wait. Life, as the pansy showed me, could not.
Laura L. Smith