In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps. – Proverbs 16:9
I had returned to Kentucky for a few days to celebrate our daughter Joanna’s birthday and get in as much quality family time as possible before returning to Michigan. One day the schedule was especially tight, as Joanna had to take her oldest daughter Caroline to tutoring from 9:00 A.M. to 10:00 A.M., then to the orthodontist at 10:30. The tutoring and the orthodontist were right next to each other, however, and there was also a coffee shop close by. So, we arranged to meet for coffee and at least get in a half hour visit. I got the name of the coffee shop from Joanna and directions from my GPS, and I was good to go… I thought.
Knowing today I could not be my usual five-or-ten-minutes-late self and still make the most of our visit, I got to the coffee shop fifteen minutes early. If you know me, you know what an amazing accomplishment that is. I got us a table and waited.
About 10:10 Joanna called. I was at the wrong coffee shop, which was ten minutes away from the one she wanted me to go to. She suggested I order our drinks and bring them to the orthodontist’s office, and we could visit there.
At 10:29, I arrived with the drinks, but wonder of wonders, the orthodontist was running right on schedule, and a minute later Caroline was called back, as was Joanna.
So much for our visit, I thought, thinking of all the driving around for nothing.
Or maybe not for nothing ...
This was, in all honesty, the most awesome waiting room I had ever seen; consequently, I was in no hurry to leave. Besides the large flatscreen TV, there were four – count them, four – large massage chairs, the kind that cost thousands of dollars each, which I had only experienced by “trying them out” in the store and dreaming of having one of my own. In the next room were video games right out of the 80’s and a soft-serve ice cream machine. Yep, orthodontist’s waiting rooms had definitely come a long way since old magazines and an aquarium.
I sat in one of the luxury chairs, finding the perfect position and trying all the buttons to get the ideal blend of kneading and vibrating. Feeling like a kid on Christmas Day, I concluded that the outcome of that morning could definitely have been worse.
After a few heavenly minutes of bliss and prayers of thanks, I noticed another woman was coming in whose daughter had just been called back. As we exchanged small talk, reveling in living like royalty, however briefly, our personalities “clicked.” As we talked about where we were from, our families, our parents, aging, dementia, death, and relating to each other our dreams of our departed loved ones, the subject transitioned seamlessly toward the afterlife. Although I hadn’t asked specifically for a “gospel conversation,” here it was. As we shared some more, I asked her if she was a reader, and she said yes. When I asked what kinds of books she liked, spirituality was at the top of the list. I offered her a copy of my latest book, which I always “happen” to have in my car, and she accepted the offer. When I came back with it, she was smiling.
“It’s funny,” she mused as I was signing it, “I was just telling my husband this morning that I needed to get a book today. Tomorrow we’re leaving for Hawaii, and I didn’t have anything to read on the plane.”
“Well now you do,” I laughed, handing her the book. A few minutes later, she and her daughter were gone.
I’m glad I hadn’t wasted any energy that day griping about my thwarted plans for a visit with my daughter and granddaughter. Clearly God had other plans, and I’ve learned His plans are always better than mine.
I still let myself get frustrated way more often than I should. But this story is one more reminder, next time I feel I’ve lost control of my day, that Somebody is perfectly in control.
Prayer: LORD, You rule over everything that happens on this earth, whether You make it happen or allow it to happen. Help us to remember that as Your children we don’t need to be upset when our plans go awry. We only need to look to You, knowing You will never leave us, and You want only the best for us and those around us, in Jesus’ name. Amen.