How to manage waylaid plans

The plan was for a six-week writing retreat at a log cabin surrounded by 2,200 acres.


Photo: Marlys

Part of the strategy included tractor-driving lessons. To make it easier for me to haul a load of firewood to the back porch.

I crushed the tractor-driving lessons. (It helped, of course, that the machine was the cutest little tractor you’ve ever seen, and practically drove itself.)


Photo: Lonnie Johnson

But heading back to the cabin, careful to walk like a penguin, I slipped and fell on thick ice.

Not one for doing things halfway, I broke my wrist. Which required surgery and eleven screws to hold the T-shaped plate in place.



So, to appease family members who are concerned about me being at a remote cabin—alone, one-handed, trying to keep the fire crackling—I’m temporarily in Boise.

I tend to think things don’t happen randomly. But on purpose. And with purpose.

And while I’ll never fully know the reason for all that occurs, I trust in a big God who does. Who fully knows. And fully sees. And fully loves.

And so I’m making the best of the time, typing with one hand — oh, so painfully slow — and hanging out with family. And eating homemade ice cream (which, right there, is a very purposeful activity).


Photo: Eli Tristan

It’s one of life’s guarantees: We’ll suffer broken bones, broken dreams, broken promises, and broken hearts.

We’ll lose our cell phones, and lose our health, and lose our loved ones to drugs, to war, to Alzheimer’s.

We’ll endure rejection, abuse, bullying, hunger, deep disappointment, detours.

But in all this, we have the choice to focus on the pain, the sorrow, the inconveniences.

Or we can focus on all that makes our life full and brimming, even in a broken world: People who love us. People to love. Our stories that are constantly unfolding. A sense of belonging. Random acts of kindness that come our way. Kindness we get to extend to others.

Ann Voskamp, one of my favorite authors, sat next to an Orthodox Hassidic rabbi on a long flight. In the middle of their conversation, the rabbi turned to Ann and said:

Every morning that the sun rises and you get to rise? That’s God saying He believes in you, that He believes in the story He’s writing through you. He believes in you as a gift the world needs.

This notion is mind-bending to me.

Not just the thought of another day in which the sun rises—priceless gift. And not just one more day in which we can propel ourselves out of bed on our own steam—also a priceless gift.

But also another day for God to add to the story He’s writing for our remaining days on earth, the best-selling Author who believes we are a gift the world needs, who believes we have something of value to offer.

And so …

When the best-laid plans are detoured, we can grumble over the inconvenience. When we experience setbacks in our finances, in our relationships, in our careers, we can whine about those hard places. When we lose something of immeasurable value, we can grieve forever.

Or … we can pay attention to the gift of each new sunrise.

We can ask God to cause our days to unfold exactly as he has planned — for our good. But also for the good of others.

This thought from an author unknown:

Appreciate where you are in your journey, even if it’s not where you want to be. Every season serves a purpose.

Has something happened to you that you didn’t want to happen, but you are absolutely certain there was purpose in it?


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  1. Anne Eden

    Marlys, thanks for this one. I am in a constant battle with chronic pain and this one really spoke to me. Sometimes I get too focused on the pain which can really pull me down. When I force myself to get up and just focus on other things like taking care of my grandchildren or stopping to call or write to a friend or family member who I know are going through difficult times as well, my day is so much better. My pain is still there, but when I focus on other people instead of my pain it helps me get through the day. I know God has a reason for everything, including my pain. It has helped me become so much more empathetic to other people and the things they are going through. And when I say I will pray for someone, it’s not just a robotic phrase to say to those who are in pain or need. I truly take the time to pray for them and hope that they will also mean it when they say they will pray for me. And by the way, when you brought up the home made ice cream, it made me remember the wonderful home made ice cream we all made at the Johnson reunion. It was the best!! God Bless and thanks for the newsletter.

    • What a fabulous attitude to have about your hard place, Anne: “It has helped me become so much more empathetic to other people.” I love that. Thank you!

  2. A beautiful truth told well Marlys. Thank you for sharing this story with all of us. Next time include the ice cream, too ?.

  3. Kathi Denton

    Oh sweet Marlys- I am so sorry about your arm. I was wondering why I hadn’t heard from you. We will have to get together in Boise. We could at least go for a walk on the Green Belt. Let’s get together soon. Love you.

  4. Becky Kierulff

    Oh Marlys
    I did the same thing only I was in Denmark broke my wrist riding a bike
    on our first day there. Ended up in 3 hospitals 2 surgeries,
    Interesting experience, someone told me “well now you have a story to tell!”
    I love your attitude, as always .

    • Wow, Becky … your story is much more interesting than mine! I can’t imagine going through all that away from the comforts of your home country.

  5. Chris

    I’m sorry to hear of your accident and I’m continually saying prayers and sending love and blessings to you.
    You’re the fourth person who has fallen, broke their wrist, had surgery and had to change plans in the last nine months. God’s story with each of you has been amazing.
    Barry’s brother and wife were able to spend precious time with Barry when he entered Hospice last June. She had fallen on their driveway a week before Barry went into Hospice. She’s an RN and was able to spend two weeks and his brother, a retired PA 4 weeks. It was a terrible accident but allowed them to be here for Barry and I. It was the first time we spent more than a long weekend together in our 48 years together.
    I’m sure the other two have their own stories to tell.
    You, being the fourth have always turned life into wonderful lessons to remind us of Gods love for all of us. He definitely has plans for all of us, letting us choose which path to follow.

    • I love that story, Chris — not that your sister-in-law broke her wrist, but that it was the catalyst for the four of you spending quality time together before Barry passed. Blessings to you, my friend.

  6. Marshall John Matthews

    Well, through all the wonderful encouraging thoughts you shared, you’re quite the trooper!

  7. Darrell Lake

    Perfectly said Marlys… Something we can all relate to for sure. Perhaps God puts bumps in our road to keep us from falling asleep at the wheel or to see how we are able to smooth them over. Setbacks are certainly bumps in the road but they are not the end of the road. You have experienced your share of such bumps but it is the manner in which you have continued your journey that has been so inspiring to the rest of us. Thank you for what you do and prayers for a quick healing….

  8. Nora Weed

    Well that’s a bummer that you fell and had to leave that darling tractor & amazing log cabin. We are getting a beautiful snow day here in Bend today. You asked about our friends who have fallen and then found something special on their way up. When our friend Brady lost his wife he was totally devastate and yet on Saturday he put himself out there to spend time with my son and his wife. On his way up Brady helped my son find his joy, it had been missing for a long time. One never knows what great loss will bring forward but many good things are possible. Another true recent event is that a family member had her car repossessed and she felt so depressed and sick. She found it so difficult to walk everywhere and was feeling so incredibly sorry for herself. But then yesterday she woke up refreshed and with a new attitude. Yes the walking hurt but she was losing weight and she felt just a smidge healthier. She looked at her strengths not her weakness and she found hope! Life is such an adventure and we are all glad you are here to keep us informed! Hugs & love being sent your way. Nora

    • Nora, I love hearing that Brady put himself out there for your son and his wife. And what a great story about the family member who is now getting more exercise and becoming healthier as a result. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Stephen White

    I think this is your best blog yet. Good job.


  10. I just love your spunk, Marlys! And I love this winsome reminder to stay open-hearted on the detours. The rabbi’s quote…stunning. Prayers for your healing.

  11. Jeannie

    So sorry to hear about the fracture in your wrist! You really did it up right! But I will say, this was one of my favorite blogs.

    It has puzzled me that God saves the best for last! I see so many “older” people, like myself and others all the way into the 90’s going through the refiners fire. It’s a constant combination of praise for Gods amazing creation and goodness and a deep lamenting prayer to heal our land, our bodies, our children, granchildren. Each day is a praise for his wonder, or a “I didn’t see that coming”

    My Dad is 93, and one of Gods finest soldiers still on this planet. He wonders daily why he is still here. Oh he has been through so much. I could write a book just on his life, his trials, and his faithfulness to God in the midst of it. But my point is it was easier to feel strong and have enormous faith between ages 20-60. As my life has gotten Bigger, so have the trials. I think I ask Jesus everyday “are you still here?” And when I’m listening, I hear Him say “I am”

    • Wow, Jeannie, this is so beautifully and profoundly written: “… a constant combination of praise for God’s amazing creation and goodness and a deep lamenting prayer to heal our land, our bodies, our children, grandchildren.” Yes, a constant combination as we age in Christ. Thank you.

  12. Fawn Pratt

    Praying for a healthy recovery. I am sending the rabbi’s quote to a friend of mine. She was given 7 months to live with stage 4 lung cancer 13 yrs ago this month! Blessings, Fawn

  13. Christiana

    A much needed word in this moment. Thank you.

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