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A Family of Planners

April 14, 2019 by Lisa Stackpole (Wisconsin, USA)

I'm a planner, but it's not my fault.  I blame my parents.              

Throughout my dad's professional career, he was the head of the budget department of a large Midwestern city.  In that role, he had to predict future trends to try and prepare the city for whatever may come.  My mom was a stay-at-home mom of three kids, all born within a period of just over three years.  She, too, had to carefully plan to make sure the family's needs were met.  

Given these role models, it's not surprising that I grew up to be a planner.  I'm most comfortable when I have time to think through alternatives and contingencies and have options at my fingertips that might be put into play as needed to avoid potential mishaps.

But life doesn't always lend itself to planning.  In my junior year of high school, my mom's routine mammogram detected a lump.  She underwent surgery, followed by chemo therapy and radiation, but the disease spread.  Four years later, during the second half of my sophomore year at college, my dad called me to tell me the shattering news: the cancer had spread to her brain.  "Come home sometime soon, Sweetie; we don't know how much time she has left."  Suddenly, though I lived in a dorm with hundreds of co-eds, I felt like the "alone-est" person in the world.  

I made it through the months leading up to summer vacation by going home on weekends to spend time with my family, and I moved back home when the semester ended.  I was needed to help around the house when my dad was at work.  I felt adrift, in part because — as Dad had said — we had no timetable.  Would Mom's battle continue for a few weeks?  A few months?  Should I take a summer job?  Would I be able to go back to the university in the autumn?  All of these questions hit me amid the fog of grief that surrounded me with the prospect of losing Mom.  My coping skills were hindered.  I felt like I could handle anything, as long as I had a timetable.  But that wasn't God's strategy.  God wanted me to be a "truster," not just a planner.

During my first year at college, I had become involved with campus ministry groups. For the first time, I had considered what it really means to follow Christ — not just because of the beliefs or traditions of my parents.  I considered what Christ went through so that I could be reconciled to God.  I responded to God's call on my heart, and I slowly began to learn more about God through prayer and scripture.

Mom's battle with brain cancer was the first real challenge to my faith — my first time stepping out of the "classroom" of Bible study into the "laboratory" of a life following Christ.  I learned how difficult it is to trust God when any type of human planning or effort is beyond our grasp.

Through this experience, I learned that Christ is indeed with me every step of the way. Like I wrote about in today's devotion, Christ has walked every path before us, even the rough ones.  I don't need to know the "whens" in life.  I just need to know the Who.  The One who sacrificed his life for me will always be with me.  Having been left alone by his friends in time of need, he knows what I was feeling in that dorm room.  I now know that Christ will never leave me alone.

You can read more from Lisa here: Lisa Stockpole |

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