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Courtney Stanford is a passionate follower of Jesus and the writer of her blog, Let Every Heart.  She is the wife of a worship pastor and the mommy of three little men. Courtney is an elementary school teacher on hiatus, while she is currently a stay-at-home Mommy and the keeper of a joyful (yet slightly noisy) home that she lovingly refers to as her "frat house."  Whether she is leading a Bible study for women, teaching her adult Sunday School class, or writing for her blog, Courtney is an enthusiastic encourager of Christ followers, especially women and children. You can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!  
 

Surrendering the Best of Our Plans

Courtney Stanford
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Courtney Stanford is a passionate follower of Jesus and the writer of her blog, Let Every Heart.  She is the wife of a worship pastor and the mommy of three little men. Courtney is an elementary school teacher on hiatus, while she is currently a stay-at-home Mommy and the keeper of a joyful (yet slightly noisy) home that she lovingly refers to as her "frat house."  Whether she is leading a Bible study for women, teaching her adult Sunday School class, or writing for her blog, Courtney is an enthusiastic encourager of Christ followers, especially women and children. You can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!  
 
#faith #plans #patience

“You’ve brought me this far, so why would I question You now?  You have provided, so why would I start to doubt?”

To follow Jesus anywhere He calls?  That was the resolve of last summer and after that, basically…I was all in.  Trusting God is all about answering the call, following Him, that stuff…right?  What if sometimes it means that our best made plans fall through.  Um…what?!

What happens then?  What happens when our hearts and minds have chosen to go wherever He calls us to go…and then you might have to stay?  Panic.  Panic happens.  Maybe it’s just me, but following Jesus means I’ll go and do hard things for Him, right?  It should never mean that I have to stay, should it?  What if our best-made plans fall through?  What are hearts supposed to do if our plans to be brave crumble around us?

This happened to my good friend, a fellow member of our Haiti mission team just a few weeks ago.  Her plans were made…and then the bottom fell out.  She had to choose to stay.  My heart broke with hers as she made a hard decision.  Bravely, she made the choice to do what had to be done but the decision to stay is not an easy one after a person has already found the peace to go.  

“I’ve never been stranded, abandoned, or left here to fight alone.  So, I’m giving you control.”

A few days passed and she was able to bless another person with her ticket.   Her resilience to do what was hard and to make the next best decision financially allowed another woman to share the love of Jesus in a far-away place.  My friend was brave to stay, and secretly, I was thankful to not be in her shoes.  The bravery to stay?  I seriously doubted that I could make her choice if I was placed in that position.

And then there was a message from the cardiologist’s office on an answering machine, and there was a look on the husband’s face that revealed way too much all at once.  The news of more testing quickly put a wrench in my best-made travel plans.  In an instant, my plans to go turned into my hopes to still go. 

 For a planner, uncertainty is a nightmare.  It requires a level of patience and trust that well-made plans certainly do not require.  Sometimes it takes more bravery to wait on a plan than it does to follow through with a plan.  Sometimes it takes more courage to calmly wait by the phone for a simple procedure to be scheduled than it does to make a giant packing list.  Sometimes you find your life on pause when you’d much rather load the suitcase and run for it.  Sometimes you find yourself completely undone when your best-made plans crumble around you…as if all of that planning was simply disposable.  And the planning you’ve done for everyone else?  The show must go on…with or without you.  You must keep ironing out the details of a trip whether God has planned for you to board a plane or not.  What then?  How do we trust God when we have already chosen to obey Him and then He asks us to be still?  Still?  “Lord, I don’t think I can be still.” 

“If peace is a river, then let it sweep over me.  If I’m under fire, I know its refining me.  When I hear you calling out, I’ll follow now, wherever the road may go.  I know You’re leading me home.”
We can remind each other that God is sovereign and we can speak of His in unfailing provision.  We can know of His perfect timing and testify with our whole life as a witness to His amazing grace.  Can we wait in obedience while the (clearly busiest nurses in the whole entire world) return phone calls after long, holiday weekends?  Sometimes practicing what we preach is tough…and sometimes it is the exact testing of our faith that we need.

My fellow team members slept around me on the final flight home, after a seven hour layover, while I recited the wordsto myself on that last exhausting plane ride. “I lift my life, lift my life up.  I give it all in surrender.  I lift my heart, lift my heart up.  You can have it forever.”  And I meant every word.  Approximately twenty-three years after surrendering my life to Jesus, I was more certain than ever to follow Him in all things: big and small, hard and easy, the staying and the going.  

“I give it ALL in surrender.”

If He asks me to go, will I go?  (Cue excitement and packing lists!) 

If He asks me to wait, will I wait? (Cue impatient phone calls and anxious blog posts….see exhibit A.)

  If He asks me to stay, will I stay? (Cue toddler-like tantrums and serious waterworks. It won’t be pretty.)  

But will I stil trust God?  “Yes, Lord.  I trust you.  Your plans are better than mine.  I trust you in all things.  Should my plans go awry, I will trust you.  I will cry and pout and ache deep within, all the while knowing that I’m safest within Your will.  I will be angry at myself for ever mentioning the symptoms of a health obstacle, all the while resting with a thankful heart {tucked deep within a pouting exterior} that Your provision is perfect.  I will put my trust in You if I go.  And if not, You are still worthy of my trust.  I will place my trust in You if I stay.  My soul will ALWAYS know that You are good.  You.  Are.  Good.”

“All my dreams, all my plans, Lord, I leave them in Your hands.  I lift my life, lift my life up.  Have your way in me.”

Friends, nothing surprises God.  Our best-made plans will never compare to the knowledge of the One who holds the Universe together.  How humbling to know that He cares for my little plans and that He meets me where I am.  He cares about us so very much that He rewrites our itineraries as needed.  He loves us too much to leave us to our own understanding.  Thank you, God.  Thank you that You write our stories beyond our understanding and that you deliver us from our own foolishness.

Just stop and think back on the past decade.  When did God know better than you?  When did you cry tears that ultimately led to pure joy?  When did he turn your sorrow into gladness?  Praise God that His thoughts are higher than our thoughts!

 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  ~Isaiah 55:9

Wherever you find yourself today, whatever the circumstances, may I encourage you to surrender it all to Him? {Preaching to myself here, friends.  Let’s be real.  I need this too.} We can lay the best of our plans down at the feet of Jesus.  We don’t have to think this through on our own.  Thank God that He carries us in His amazing grace even when we don’t have the courage to let go of our own plans.  

“Take my life and let it be all for you.  Take my life and let it be all for you.

  I lift my life, lift my life up.  I give it all in surrender.  I lift my heart, lift my heart up.  You can have it forever.  All my dreams, all my plans, Lord, I leave them in your hands.”

From my impatient heart to yours,   ~Courtney

**The lyrics to Lift My Life Up by Unspoken have been woven throughout this blog post.  This song has been a prayer in my life for the past year and has been instrumental as I surrender my whole life to Jesus again and again, decision by decision, day after day.  May this song be a blessing to you and your loved ones as well.  Much love to you, dear friends!**

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