Stories of faith, life, and love

Tag: God’s plan

Best Laid Plans

Botanical garden pictures, fountains, hedge mazes, flowers.

You know what they say about best laid plans. Or if you’re like me, you have to google the rest of the saying because people stopped using the complete phrase. It’s actually, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. That was my weekend.

The main character in my work in progress owns a cupcake truck. Rural southern Illinois is not known for its food truck options. The closest place for sampling the fare is St. Louis, Missouri. I researched to find one with great reviews and my husband and I left Friday night. We would spend the night and be at the food truck when it opened on Saturday.  The day would give me valuable insight into locations, ability to operate in the cold winter months, and the food truck atmosphere.

While enjoying the botanical gardens Saturday morning, I checked Facebook every hour for the food truck to post the day’s location. When opening time came and went without a post, I messaged them. The return message was prompt and disappointing. They were closed for Labor Day weekend! I tried to find other trucks, but none really appealed to me. I couldn’t find locations for the couple that we agreed sounded okay. I couldn’t keep searching because reading in the car was making me sick. We stopped looking. My research trip was suddenly research-less.

Choosing to stay positive, we visited an antique mall we’d seen. We were unimpressed. Everything on our list of things to do was failing to deliver. We were having a pleasant time and enjoying the time spent together, but our plans weren’t working out as we’d hoped.

On a whim, I found a used bookstore since Andy and I love the one we go to in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.  We stopped. Like everything else, we enjoyed ourselves, but it probably won’t receive a return trip. It did, however, give us the prompting we needed to take a less familiar way home, off the interstate.

Barn, tractor with wagon, country store

While we drove the highway through forgotten small towns, we decided to pull over if anything we saw looked good for lunch. If not, we’d just wait until we got home. That’s when I saw the sign for Eckert’s orchard. We have several orchards in our area, but even the most commercial ones are not like this. It was home-grown fun for the entire family. Eckert’s boasts a restaurant, custard stand, country store, garden center, and U-pick apple and pumpkin fields complete with tractor pulled wagon rides to the trees or vines.  They even had a carnival area for the kids.

Our first stop was the country store filled with products made from the produce of the farm. The store contained everything a small country market would have along with gifts and home décor. We quickly had more on our list of things we’d like to try than we guessed possible and decided to eat first, shop second.

We weren’t sure what kind of quality could be expected at an orchard restaurant, but we were pleasantly surprised. The portions were good, and the food was too. The service was excellent. Everyone we met at the restaurant and in the store was pleasant and helpful, taking the time to chat with us. With our hunger satisfied, we went back to the store and spent way more than we should have on fudge, cider, pancake mix and syrup, flavored coffee, cider doughnuts, and grilling sauces.

Eckert’s orchard wasn’t on our list of things to do when we set out for the weekend, but it was the highlight of our trip. On the way home we talked about how we would have missed it had the food truck been open or if we hadn’t veered off course to find the used bookstore. We wouldn’t have seen it if we’d taken the interstate as originally planned or decided to call the trip done and wait to eat until we arrived home. So many things in our plans had to go wrong for us to end up in the one place that turned into the most memorable part of our weekend.

How many times do we gripe and whine to God when things don’t go the way we planned? How many times do we pout over missed opportunities and unexpected twists in our lives? We lay out great plans for our marriages, families, careers, and ministries only to lash out at God as if He’s betrayed us when something we didn’t plan and don’t like enters into our carefully constructed pictures. We intended to go through life on the fast-moving interstate only to find ourselves on the backroads of a country highway. And I can’t help but wonder how many times we’ve missed the times of joy, redemption, and restoration God has for us around the next bend in the road because we’re too busy focusing on how all our best laid plans have fallen apart.

Less Than

It was the first story I can remember writing for an assignment. I was thrilled to work on something creative. I loved reading and wanted to be an author. I worked hard to make it perfect. I turned it in and anticipated its return.

I don’t know what grade I got. What stayed with me, though, was how I felt reading the teacher’s comments. Thirty years later, I can’t remember the exact critique. It had something to do with simplicity. What I vividly recall is the feeling that accompanied the negative note. It’s the same feeling I got three years later when my short story, “The Case of the Missing Idea”, came back from a contest my English teacher had submitted it to. Once again, it wasn’t chosen. My story wasn’t good enough.

Both experiences, along with others, left me more than disappointed. I felt less than. If I couldn’t impress my teacher or the judge, what chance did I have to become a writer? Would I ever be good enough? Should I simply give up and save myself the heartache?

As I grew up, God used the authors I love to fan the flame of my interest in writing. I took courses, and I attended conferences. I felt a nudge in my spirit to minister to others through my passion for writing. I submitted my work. I learned it’s about more than writing. What kind of following did I have? What in my life made me known by enough people to be valuable enough for a publisher to consider publishing my work?

I’m from small town Illinois. I didn’t have a following. I didn’t have speaking engagements lined up. I wasn’t a leader in well-known organizations. I was a pastor’s kid and pastor’s wife from small country churches. I was a mother. I was active in ministry, leading youth groups, teaching Sunday school, and directing a local church camp for teens. But none of those things were public enough to give me a following. Publishers didn’t want a no-name. The risk was too big. It was discouraging. Once again, I felt less than.

It’s a feeling many have experienced. It’s a feeling Peter Holstein and Rosemary Gresham wrestle with in A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White. Rosemary, a thief from childhood due to circumstances, stubbornly refuses to let others’ opinions of her keep her from doing what she needs to do. When that feeling of less than sneaks in, Rosemary lets it spur her on to prove everyone wrong about her. However, during her current job trying to prove Peter a German sympathizer on the eve of World War I, Rosemary can’t completely quiet the thoughts. She does an admirable job getting others to see there’s usually more to the story than what people see on the outside. But inside herself, Rosemary still fights feeling less than.

Peter takes a different approach.  Most of Peter’s issue stems from a stutter that’s made worse when he’s anxious or upset. Peter is a smart, giving man with a talent for writing. He uses that talent in secret, writing under a pen name. His identity as an author is known only to a chosen few. Peter feels his stutter makes him appear dumb, and no one would take him seriously as a writer if they knew. His lifestyle of seclusion makes him an oddity. As war approaches, his German heritage and land holdings make him a target. What was once considered simply odd behavior is seen as sinister. Peter wants to prove his loyalty, but his feelings of being less than threaten to keep him from even attempting to clear his name.

Less than is a powerful feeling. Like Rosemary, it can prompt you to prove people wrong. Or like Peter, it can leave you feeling defeated and trapped. Regardless of the direction the feeling takes you, it can become a tenacious enemy striking over and over just as it has for me in writing.

But I’ve been blessed in my battle. God has strengthened me for dealing with it. He’s given me favorite Christian authors to inspire me. When I finish their stories, I can’t help feeling the ache inside to do for others what they have done for me. I’ve been exposed to Christian teachings through non-fiction books that have helped me understand my dream and whether it is only my dream or if it is God’s dream for me. In times where feelings of less than threaten to make me give up, God has given me little successes to keep me focused. One of the biggest blessings He’s given is spiritual mentors to help me see what God says about those who are feeling less than.

These faithful men and women have pointed me to the scriptures that promise God knew what He was doing when He formed me (Psalm 139). My less than was perfectly designed for His purpose. They’ve encouraged me to understand that no matter what happens, God has a plan for my life (Jeremiah 29:11). I’ve been pointed to 1 Peter 2:9 as a reminder that God chose me. He’s set me apart for His purpose. And when I fail, I’ve been shown that I’m in good company. Moses who stuttered, Peter who denied, David who killed, Elijah who struggled with depression, and Jonah who ran have all been held up as examples. And I’ve come to a realization.

I am less than. So are you. So are they. But it doesn’t matter because we are all less than the holy One who created us, and He loves us the way we are. God doesn’t care about what talents or accomplishments we bring to the table. He just wants us to step up. He wants to work through us to accomplish His will. His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:8-10). When He accomplished something we couldn’t do on our own, His glory shines brighter. When I am less than, God is more than enough.

By the Book: How can realizing we are all less than help free you to be the person God wants you to be?

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