When Things Don’t Quite Go As Planned


He stripped me. Again. Stripped me of any control, any choice, any preference – without even consulting my fragile feelings or anxious heart.

He does that, you know. God often allows life to happen in ways we’re not always thrilled about.

I wanted the retreat I was speaking at recently to go perfectly; me and my sweet little agendas. After all, the best made plans can really help a girl out. But they can also be the death of her. Trust me, I know; having things mapped-out can be a really great thing – until those things start going all over the map.

For instance, I had planned to have all of my work done at least one week before the retreat so I could marinate in what I was speaking on for a few days; really get it into my heart and not just my head.

And yet, due to some big life events in the weeks preceding, I found myself still making changes up until the day before I left – adding things, subtracting things, researching things, contemplating things, getting frustrated about things…

My only request was a private room in the hopes that I could have lots of alone time with God and be able to sleep well, so my mind would be clear and sharp during my talks.

And it was a great room. Except for the two outside lights that were on all night long, shining proudly through the mini blinds and boring straight through my eyeballs and into my brain, making me think it was morning for eight solid hours.

Then there was the rain that threatened my hair, the food that threatened my body, the text that threatened my peace, and the thoughts that threatened to stir-up all of my insecurities.

All before I even put the lapel mic on.

Things didn’t go exactly as planned. My ducks were not only no longer in a row, some of them had flat-out taken off. My expectations were shattered and I was on the verge of becoming a perfect wreck – all because things weren’t going the way I wanted them to. The way I had been praying for them to go.

By Saturday afternoon, I had finished one of my talks and was walking back to my room to crash. The morning session had gone well enough, but I was still a little miffed.

Why even pray if our prayers don’t get answered?

As I hurried back through a heavy drizzle, mulling over this question and my weekend thus far, I started thinking…

I had prayed that God would let me be prepared well ahead of time so that I could be confident, knowing that it would all turn out great.

So God put me in a situation where I would learn that things could go great even when I’m not as prepared as I’d like to be. All of that worry was for nothing; I could have been confident the whole time.

I wanted to be able to sleep well so that I would have the strength to do a good job.

So God put me in a situation where I would learn that I could muster the strength to do a good job and get through a speaking engagement despite having a groggy brain and weary eyeballs.

I wanted to be able to leave the cares of my life behind so they wouldn’t affect me and I could have peace while doing the assignment I was given to do.

So God put me in a situation where I had no choice but to put my cares on the shelf for a later time and not let them affect me; not allow them to take my attention and steal my peace.

After a few minutes of walking in the rain, I started smiling. Because the more I thought about it, the more I realized that my prayers were being answered – those prayers for confidence, strength, and peace. After all, those were the things I was really after.

And as I considered this further, a very important truth sunk deep into my soul:

God isn’t as interested in making situations right, as He is in making people right.

See, I want things to be just right so I can handle things well. But God wants me to be right so I can handle the not-so-good things well.

He isn’t interested in perfecting my circumstances. He’s interested in perfecting meso that when those less-than-desirable circumstances rear their ugly heads, I will someday automatically operate out of confidence. And strength. And peace. Because these virtues have become a part of me; apart from my circumstances.

My problem is, I want to have confidence, strength, and peace, because everything is going smooth and my world is perfect. Duh. As if everything will be right this side of heaven.

So, because it never will be, God wants to build in me what I can have this side of heaven: all of those virtues despite everything that’s going on around me.

And I am reminded once again…

True freedom isn’t being free from adverse circumstances; it’s being able to go through adverse circumstances without them adversely affecting you.  

Oh, man. What a concept. And what a different way to look at my circumstances – and my prayers.

They’re probably being answered a whole lot more than I realize. And in much bigger ways. And for a much greater purpose.

I bet yours are too.  :)

 

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To a Successful New Year

It started with one. Just one little piece of cereal in two tiny fingers. Squirrely fingers. Little boy fingers.

Those little boy fingers flicked that little round donut shape just a few short inches from a bowl full of them – not far, but far enough to let me know my precious grandson wasn’t interested in eating the thing. He just wanted to make a mess with it. And see what I would do.

I smiled. And watched. One little piece? No biggie. Let’s see what he does next…

He shifted his attention to the rest of them…little fingers digging through the bowl as they spilled all over the side. I could have sworn I saw a gleam in his eye that hinted this was feeling really darn-good to his soul. His gap-tooth smile confirmed it.

So I smiled back. And asked him to please put them back in the bowl.

He smiled back too. And started dumping more out. Oh, geeze.

I told him I’d count to three and if he didn’t clean up, he would have to go in time-out.

One, two, three…

Thus began forty minutes of hell on earth. Have you ever had to “correct” a too-smart-for-his-own-good, hyperactive toddler going on three? I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. But alas, a Nana must do what a Nana must do. And so, this Nana put her Boo in time-out, screams and all, with the instruction that as soon as he was ready to clean up his mess, he could come out.

He could give a rip. So I waited five minutes and then had a little chat with him. He still refused to comply so I gently walked away.

His tantrum went on for another few minutes, until I went back and nicely asked him to clean up. He stopped long enough to look at me, but once again refused and resumed his screaming. No tears, mind you; just short, blood-curdling, make-your-neighbors-think-you’re-torturing-him screams. Fun times.

After about the third or fourth time of doing this, I sat down in front of him and softly whispered, real serious-like, and asked him to look me in the eyes. That got his attention. (Whispers do that, you know – make you lean in to hear. Yelling only repels.) I told him I was so bummed he was making this choice because I wanted to play with him! And as soon as he made a healthy choice to clean up, we could play! It sounded so reasonable, so positive, so appealing; I was sure he would make the right decision this time.

Yeah, right. All he did was resume screaming.

My mom happened to be there with me at the time and, God bless her, supported me through this whole drama…You’re doing the right thing, honey. Hang in there. Don’t give up. I wanted to; oh, how I wanted to! I would have had the instant gratification of a quiet house and calmed nerves. We could have played cars and eaten that evil cereal.

But I am so glad I didn’t give in. Because I would later come to realize that this was a huge learning moment. Oh, not for him.

For me.

You see, it would only be a few, short days later, when I was complaining to God about how hard a situation was and how badly I wanted to give up, that a question would be whispered to my heart and catch my own attention:

Are you willing to wait forty minutes, Sherri? Are you willing to put up with a long, hard period of time for a better pay-off in the end?

Ugh.

It is so hard to go through hard stuff. Why does that always surprise us?

I’ve never been much into New Year’s resolutions, but this coming year I want to lose that four pounds I put on at Christmastime. FOUR POUNDS.

But I still want those See’s Candies sitting on my counter, and the yummy cobbler I made, and banana bread with butter…

This coming year I want to continue to better my marriage.

But I’d rather tune-out after a long day of working…watch television…and not have to put in so much time and effort…

This coming year I want to read more, exercise more, learn more.

But I love going out with my friends, doing computer puzzles, and chatting on the phone…

I don’t want to have to put in effort. I don’t want to have to keep going. I don’t want to wait forty minutes. And I sure as heck don’t want to wait a tortuous forty minutes. I want instant gratification. A quiet life; an easy life. With calm nerves.

But, as the old saying goes, a smooth sea never made a skillful sailor. A carbs-filled tummy never made a healthy body. An effort-less relationship never made a healthy marriage. A tuned-out brain never made an improved mind.

And it makes me think…

Maybe any goals I make next year will have a much greater chance at success if I ask God to help me be willing to wait the forty tortuous minutes it takes to reach them and push through the hard, uncomfortable stuff, rather than centering my prayers on fulfillment. Maybe they should be centered on asking for strength rather than satisfaction; endurance rather than ease; self-discipline rather than self-gratification.

After an agonizing forty minutes of him screaming and me just about losing my sanity, my grandson finally decided to clean up. At first, he handed my mom – his great-grandma – a piece of cereal, insisting she put it in the bowl for him. Little booger.

As if someone else can do the hard stuff for us and we reap the benefits.

But as much as I’d have loved to let that be okay, I knew I could not – for his sake. He would have to do the hard, uncomfortable work of putting it all back himself, and I would have to do the hard, uncomfortable work of making sure he did.

In the end, through lots of high-five’s, we celebrated our strengthened characters and humbled hearts from pushing through. I think those are the absolute best results that can come from our New Year’s resolutions anyway. After all, they are the only ones that we will take with us into forever.

Wishing you a blessed and fulfilling New Year!

 

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