Plans? What plans? I don’t have a plan! The plans I had for our golden years were dashed several years ago when dementia entered our happy home …uninvited. Once inside, that masked thief began robbing my dear sweetheart of her brain cells, one by one, until she is no longer a true companion to me. By choice, I am her caregiver. I don’t think I could bear leaving her in the care of another, not knowing her ever changing condition nor of the care she was receiving while I was away. I want to have her near me as long as possible.
Even so, during this arduous time in our lives, a frequent question I hear is, “So, what’s the plan?” What am I going to do when I can no longer care for her? The simple answer is and has always been, “I don’t have a plan…” I have no earthly idea what tomorrow holds. As a matter of fact, I have no earthly idea what might happen later today! To take it a step further, I would rather not to know what tomorrow will bring. I’m perfectly content for God to keep it His secret. Not just content—I prefer it! I have enough cares for today without worrying about what tomorrow may bring. Of course, I do have some short-term tentative plans such as the beauty shop on Fridays, eating with friends next Saturday evening, etc. But, I am well aware that even short-term plans such as these are subject to change at any moment. It should also go without saying that as far as any long-term plans regarding Fay’s future needs and arrangements, I have no plan. However, I am prepared to adjust my schedule as necessary to accommodate God’s plan and her ever changing needs.
Of course, as soon as I reveal the fact that I don’t have a plan, the suggestions begin rolling in. My closest friends must feel that I am simply groping blindly in the dark. They can’t imagine my seeming lack of planning. I am sure they all feel they are helping me make some hard decisions. I have no doubt that they mean well—that they feel they are merely looking out for my best interests. And I deeply appreciate (more than mere words can express) their loving-kindness toward me. That’s what friends are for.
In response to their concerns, I try to explain by recalling some of my feeble attempts at making various plans in the past, only to find them to be exercises in futility.
I recall my youth—my pre-college days. My plan then was to go into the ministry. It had been my plan since early Junior High. Although the Lord had also blessed me with a degree of talent in both the areas of art and engineering, I was drawn inexplicably to the music and education parts of the ministry. I really never had any other plan. My High School math teacher had even gotten for me a scholarship or grant to Yale University based on what she perceived as my math prowess, but I was not interested. I would go to Baylor University, take a double major in preparation for my ministry and then spend the rest of my life following that dream. Even as a freshman at Baylor, I was called to a small fledgling church as their Minister of Music and Education. Perfect! I was evidently in the center of God’s will. I could start honing my skills in the real world even while I was yet in school. Evidently I was deemed successful enough in that first endeavor to be given a similar position in a larger church during the following summer. It would appear on the surface that all things were falling into place—that God was opening all the right doors for me.
But, late in my sophomore year, I was called to yet another, even larger church. While there, my dream began to fade. My work there was beginning to feel more like a job than a ministry. I was beginning to lose my joy. I was finding it to be near impossible to ‘minister’ effectively as my heart was no longer in it. My plan was proving to be misguided at best. After a time of agonizing over my future, I realized that in order to find some peace in my life, I would necessarily need to rearrange my plans. To follow that particular earlier dream would apparently lead me to a lifetime of frustrations. I no longer felt that a life in full time ministry would produce the abundant life for me that God promised in John 10:10. Even though I was dutifully leading others into worship, I was experiencing little or no personal worship.
As result, I soon abandoned my childhood plans; leaving Baylor behind with the intent of changing my major to architecture where I could utilize both my art and engineering skills. I enrolled in what was then Arlington State College with plans of later transferring to Texas Tech University. Once again, I got a wonderful opportunity for ‘on the job training’ while attending school. I got a job with an architect—an architect for Baptist churches, no less. Surely God must have been in the move! But, in less than a year, the economy slowed, the architect had no new contracts and I was laid off. I immediately realized that the architectural field could be feast of famine. I had no job, no money and was training for a career in which such prospects were seemingly the norm. All architectural firms in the area were in the same boat. Was I watching another of my plans go awry?
While still in architectural school, I secured a job as a commercial artist at a large publishing company. I loved it! It didn’t have the lofty reputation attached to architecture, but I loved it. Was God again leading me in yet another direction? As it turned out, my world of commercial art eventually morphed into areas of drafting, technical illustration, graphic design and finally management in graphic related fields. As the eventual manager of all things related to graphics at a large independent oil company, I was totally content at the prospect of finishing my career there. But as I reached the tender age of 45, our company was swallowed up by a huge oil company and I, along with the majority of those under my supervision, was soon displaced. This was not in my plans. I could only assume that God had other plans all along which I had not been privileged to know.
Finding a comparable position at a reputable company proved to be a formidable challenge. I began to explore other options. I remember that during my college days, my dad formed his own little company. I watched him struggle, working extremely long hours as not only the owner, but also as salesman, janitor, bookkeeper, delivery boy, whatever. As I observed his struggles, I declared I would never try to own my own business. But, God had other plans. Contrary to my declaration, I was destined to spend the rest of my career as the owner of a small business.
When it was nearing time for my dad to retire, he hadn’t enough money in reserve to rub two pennies together. I felt I needed to help, so I bought several vending machines and began establishing a route which he could take over to provide income for his ‘golden years’. But before he could retire and take over that little business, he was killed in a car wreck. Another of my plans had gone awry. I only tell of these unfulfilled plans to illustrate my futility in making them. It seems that every time I make plans, God laughs. As a result, I have purposely avoided making any plans regarding Fay’s future. He alone knows what the future holds for us and He alone holds the keys. I am resolved to live each day, hopefully reacting judiciously to whatever the day may bring. I am reminded of an interesting Scripture found in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” (NASB). If God already has plans beneficial for me, why should I be overly concerned? It’s like God is saying, ‘Don’t sweat it! I’ve got you covered.’ Why should I waste my time and energy trying to make an additional set of plans? It is only through Him that I have hope. I would certainly never consider overriding what He has in store for me.
At the same time, however, I must remain pliable, ready to go wherever He leads. Her dementia surely was not part of our plans. If dementia was deemed by us as uncharted territory in the beginning, it is certainly proving to be especially true today. We still have no clue which direction the path will lead us tomorrow. In that sense, He’s the pilot of this ‘ship’, we’re the passengers. When He goes fast, we go fast; when He moves slowly, we move slowly; when He takes a left turn, we take a left turn. I am indeed very relieved to know that He already has a plan in place for me. It is consoling to me to know that He has our situation well under His control, and it will eventually have a happy ending. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28 NKJV)”.
With that in mind, my best response is, “Thank you, Lord, for taking over that burden for me.” I can rest in your care.