When Real Life Messes Up the Planner

I’m a planner. Everything goes on a calendar. If it’s not there, it probably won’t happen. Honestly! Just ask my kiddos. When they really want me to remember something, they ask if I’ve put it on my calendar. If it’s not there, it probably won’t be remembered. 

And my planner is filled. Kids activities, church stuff, family events, game nights with friends…it’s all there. The penciled in dates, stickers, quotes, verses. I even put in stuff I think will happen! All of it. Buying accessories for my planner is a favorite hobby. My Pinterest board is filled with ideas for planners. 

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I’ll let you in on a secret. Every single Valentine’s Day, I fill that little box with hearts and block out a space of time for a Valentine’s Dinner with that special someone. But, that box sits empty and has for many years. 

And, as a single mom, there’s holiday’s that are left empty because I share custody with their dad and they are at his house. 

See, as much as I wish life would match my perfect planner it doesn’t. 

A kid has to work during a scheduled family dinner. 

A tire goes flat on the way to work. 

The alarm doesn’t go off and you’re late for a meeting. 

You lose a job. A loved one. A relationship. 

Doctor’s appointments for an unexpected illness fill boxes instead of a work schedule.

Or maybe your dream just isn’t happening on your timeline. 

Life. It just happens. And it usually doesn’t go as planned.

When my youngest son was in Middle School, we were talking one night about how nothing stays the same. He’s a bit of a planner, like me.  And, he just wanted things to go the way he thought they should. I gave him the old adage, “The only constant in life is change.” His engineering mind had trouble wrapping around that one! However, it is true. Things change all around us and sometimes life takes twists and turns we never expected. 

In the Bible, I see that Abraham waited many years for a son. Joseph was imprisoned before his dreams came true. David was anointed king, then he was fleeing for his life. Ruth may not have thought she’d be working in the fields to feed her and Naomi. And, I’m not sure Paul thought that he’d be preaching in Rome as a prisoner.  

But, these men and women held on. They realized that’s God’s grace was sufficient. They held to a hope that no bad speedbump, curve, circumstance could destroy. They kept believing, even when it seemed impossible. And, honestly, isn’t that why we read about them? We see glimpses of our own lives mirrored their lives. We feel the disappointment, the unknowing, the struggle. And we rejoice when victory is obtained, and a promise fulfilled. 

Ladies, have fun with those planners! Fill them with stickers and bright colors. Carry them with you. List those dental appointments and little league games. But, be sure to leave space for the unknown. Because in those blank spaces, when it seems impossible, God’s going to do great big things! 

Gwendolyn Irene


The Holding Place

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The phrase “But God…” is often the statement that follows some of my most recent frustrations. God is the giver of all things good right? But what about when you feel like he is holding you in place that doesn’t feel so “good”. Is he the giver of those moments too? I am learning to embrace those moments as a holding place. As I call out “But God…” he answers back with a simple “Just wait”. So I wait until I can tell I feel prompted to move. I wait for peace in a place that doesn’t feel comfortable or natural to my flesh. I wait in the holding place until I am ready. This is the place he can grow me and stretch me, when all I really want to do is run forward. As the good Father he is, he knows when to let us run and when to keep us in place. However, the problem factor in his glorious plan is often me! As situations come about, I hear myself saying “But God…” as I try to interfere with his plan and purpose so it is more to my liking. I offer suggestions to the all-knowing God like my plan is somehow more intelligent than his. I would like to think he just lovingly smiles down and embraces my thoughts as he gently offers a reminder to hold my place. To wait for his guidance and learn to hear his voice in the chaos of my own thoughts.

Waiting does not come easily to me and I believe most can say the same. So what do we do in the holding place if we aren’t trying to revise the Lord’s plan? We praise him for the very place he is keeping us! We find gratitude for the one thing that is keeping us in place, preparing us for his gifts in his perfect timing.  The holding place is designed to protect us from receiving before we are ready and from stepping into places we were never designed to go. It’s when we are ready that we can fully experience the blessing he has in store. I wonder what he is protecting you from in your own holding place. What plans he has designed just for you as you learn to praise with a grateful heart right where you are.

I am finding beautiful things in this place and I am learning to quite the noise. To shut out the distractions and turning my “But God…” into a “Thank you, God”. I think Donald Miller paints a beautiful picture of this in his book “Through Painted Deserts” when he states that “Life is a dance towards God, I begin to think. And the dance is not so graceful as we might want. While we glide and sway our practiced sway, God crowds our feet, bumps our toes, and scuffs our shoes. So we learn to dance with the One who made us.  And it is a difficult dance to learn, because its steps are foreign to us.” This makes me wonder if God is just waiting for me to learn his dance. To let him lead me in place that feels foreign to me, but natural and graceful to him. I think it’s time for us to let go and be led. To lay down our suggestions and dance with our creator in the holding places of our lives. And when he says “Go forward” we will be able to freely run into his blessings!