When Life Doesn’t Go According to Plan

I had a plan. My plan looked something like this: I was going to send all four of my girls to camp the exact same week so that I could be at home by myself for one whole week.

I’ve been looking forward to this plan for months. I’ve been dreaming about it in my really tired moments and planning for it in my upbeat moments.

I was going to lay on my couch with my robe on in the middle of the day and watch Netflix, just because I could.

I was going to deep dive into my next big writing project and write the first few chapters.

I was going to go to the nail salon without fending off four other women who wanted to come with me and sit there while someone painted my toes ALL BY MYSELF.

I was going to have a day of praying, walking, quietly listening, and planning out the rest of the summer and fall. I was so excited about this day that it’s been on my calendar for months.

Bottom line: I was going to do what I wanted, when I wanted, simply because I wanted to, ALL BY MYSELF.

I haven’t had a week like this since we brought Mia Grace home from China six years ago.

But God has this way of doing things. He has this way of giving us not the thing we want but the thing we need.

And what I needed was a week that looked totally different than the one I had planned.

The day before camp, four sets of clothes were laid out, four sets of costumes for theme nights were neatly labeled in ziploc bags, and four sets of letters and care packages were carefully assembled. The two big girls were gone, and Caroline, Mia Grace, and I had last minute items to grab at Target. Caroline walked into the kitchen and said, “Mom, I have a headache.” I felt her forehead, took her temperature, and there it was: 99.4. Could it have been too much sun exposure and time in the water? Maybe. We had just come home from two days at the beach. But it could be something else as well? Maybe.

So on our way to Target, we stopped into the Urgent Care to get a rapid test done just in case. To be in the clear. To prove this was not COVID but just a summer cold. Or not enough water. Or too much sun.

But the test results came back, and in a moment, my carefully constructed week fell apart. Caroline had COVID.

All of a sudden, trunks had to be unpacked, people had to be notified, and a new plan had to be made. By God’s grace, my two big girls had been gone for several nights and had not been in the same house as Caroline, but Mia Grace and I had been exposed.

So all of a sudden, I was packing three suitcases, ten bags of groceries, two kids, and one dog, and heading to our house in Brenham, a quiet place in the country, where Caroline could rest and Mia Grace and I could quarantine for the next ten days. All of a sudden, my plans went up in smoke. All of a sudden, I felt like I had been robbed out of the rest I wanted and cheated out of the solitude I needed.

From six feet away with a mask on in the kitchen, Jason, trying to be helpful, said, “You know, this really is a blessing. You are going to get great time with the girls.”

“DON’T TELL ME THIS IS A BLESSING!” I yelled from across the kitchen island (keeping it real here, people). “I am sure in a few days I will think this is a blessing, but right now, I just want to be sad and mad I’m not going to have the week I had planned.”

And for twenty-four hours, I was. I was sad and mad. I had a silent pity party as I made a meal plan, ordered groceries to pick up so I could cook for three people for three meals a day, answered a million questions from my seven-year-old, and tried to make a plan of how to keep Caroline separated and Mia Grace occupied.

But after twenty-four hours, something in my heart shifted, and I woke up with peace. No, this wasn’t the week I wanted. But this was the week I needed.

I’ve been saying for months I needed more time with Mia Grace. More time to slow down, listen, play games, and go at a seven-year-old pace instead of an older-kid-uber-driver-activity-manager teenager pace.

I needed permission to put my list of to-do’s and deep dive work projects on hold and do other things like look at a turtle who had crawled up onto our lawn. Play board games on the porch. Dive into the pool and swim with Mia Grace on my back. Feed carrots to horses. And go on long walks and ride in the back of the mule as Caroline drove me around.

Apparently, this was the kind of week I needed because it provided the deep down restoration God knew I wanted.

This week reminds me of the quote from John Newton I think of often.

Everything is necessary that God sends our way; nothing can be necessary that He withholds.

John Newton

Like me, is there a plan you’ve made, a course you’ve plotted out, or a way you thought was even needed and necessary, only to watch that plan either go up in flames or unfold bit by bit in a different manner than you were expecting?

Can I remind you and me both? Release the plan. Release the way you thought you needed, the plan you thought you wanted, and open your hand to what God wants to give.

Will embracing this plan require trust? Yes. It will require trusting that the things we thought were needed either were not or will be accomplished in a different way, God-sized way, when He is ready and the time is right.

But until then, we can trust. We can rest. We can be fully present to the things He has allowed instead of being angry or sullen over what He has withheld.

The polish on my toes is cracked, my hair hasn’t been washed for days, and I have yet to lay on the couch and watch Netflix to my heart’s content.

But here’s what I’ve gained: Time with my girls. Deeper connection with and affection for Mia Grace. A deeper trust in God and His plan for my life.

That’s a trade I will make any day.

The morning my plan fell apart, I listened to a sermon from Pastor Tim Keller I had listened to in the past but felt prompted to listen to again.

To listen to this sermon, click here. Trust me, it’s worth the listen.

It’s all about Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. Martha is frantically running around the house, preparing a meal for Jesus to eat, frustrated her sister isn’t helping. Jesus admonishes Martha:

“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

LUKE 10:41-42

It took me until Tuesday to remember the sermon I had I listened to on Saturday. But once I did, Jesus’ words reframed my whole week.

Here, at the ranch, in the quiet of the country, He has given me the one thing needed: time at His feet. Time with Him, and time with my girls.

What do I need? Often not what I think.

But what I can trust is He always gives what is necessary to cultivate the one thing that really matters.

And you can trust the same thing too.

My plan was to roll out my new PDF and website this week, but, as you and I both know, plans change! But I am excited that everything should be ready to go for next week. So be on the lookout for a whole new website design and a new PDF – How to Restore – to make room for the solitude, rest, and work we all really need.

For more encouragement throughout the week – and to read some of Jason’s amazing camp letters! – you can find me on Instagram, @baker.susannah.