Monday, August 15, 2005

Not as Planned

It was past the optimal time for planting a garden. Nevertheless, I still wanted some fresh produce before summer's end, so I headed off to one of our local garden stores. I picked up some tomato, pepper, squash, and watermelon plants. Then I headed for the seed packets, grabbing green beans, beets, and zinnias.

Within a couple of days, I had the plants and seeds nestled in the brown earth. Then I waited for the seeds to sprout and the plants to produce their first blooms. It wasn't long before the beans emerged from the soil. But soon they began to produce curly-Qs that vined around each other. This was my first clue that something was amiss. In my hurry, had I picked up pole beans instead of bush beans? I thought I had purchased bush beans. In my 35 years of marriage, I had always planted bush beans, and what I viewed in my garden was definitely not normal.

Another week went by, and I was convinced that I had indeed planted pole beans. It was too late to uproot them and plant again if I wanted a harvest before first frost. What was I to do with this mess of tangles vines? I had to figure out a way to make the best of a situation that was not as I had planned.

I went looking for anything and everything I could find to give the vines some support. In the garage I spied a few extra tomato cages. Then I spotted some decorative stakes in my flower beds. I stuck this random assortment into the ground all around the bean patch and coaxed the vines around my make-shift arrangement.

Life is often like this gardening experience: things don't always turn out quite as planned. Some choices made in good faith go awry for one reason or another. Other times things happen that are completely beyond our control. Sadness, sickness, and financial stress are never written in the script we've written for our lives. Disappointment, death, and divorce aren't on anyone's list of desired destinations. Loneliness and various losses, both large and small, aren't ever part of our plans.

My agenda never includes angst of any sort. I didn't choose for one of my children to struggle all the way through school. It was not in my plans for my daughter and her family to move to Bosnia. I wouldn't have chosen for my mother to pass away so suddenly. It wasn't as I had envisioned when a book contract that was promised for over a year never came to fruition.

What do we do when things don't go as we planned? When hopes are dashed? When we encounter the unexpected? We pray and ask God for grace and strength and wisdom. And much like my vining beans, we gather all the available support of family and friends as we attempt to make the best of the situation.

Sometimes we will never understand why certain things have happened. We just do our best to trust that God is in control. Other times we move on, and eventually we come to see a blessing in what has transpired. As I am now gathering an amazing harvest of beans, I am now thinking I may plant pole beans again next year! My unplanned bean patch may have taught me something valuable.

I'm also reminded that most of life's blessings are also unexpected and unplanned. We could never plan for such Divine extravagance. I could fill volumes recounting all the blessings God has sent my way. There was the surprise food shower given for my husband and me in our early days of marriage. And I certainly didn't expect that someone would pay my hospital bill when our second child was born. (We didn't have insurance at that time.) I hadn't planned that a writer friend would show up on my door step with a beautiful bouquet of roses on a day I was feeling less than "writerly." Neither had I planned on the outpouring of compassion when my mother passed away.

Things will not always turn out as planned. Yet as we face the unplanned and all the uncertainties of life, we can still be certain of the grace of God. May we live according to his gracious PLAN!

“...not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.”
2 Corinthians 4:16
(The Message)

(c) 2005 Marlene Depler

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