The Best-Made Plans
We had a lot of ups and downs while Martin was in the hospital. There were times I thought he was going to live and times I was afraid he might die. When things were good, I dreamed of our life returning to normal. When things weren’t so good — he was confused or having difficulty relearning to eat or walk — I assumed we might need help from a home health-care worker once we were back in our condo. I always planned for Martin to come home. I never considered any other alternative. No matter how difficult the struggles in the hospital seemed, he was still progressing so I just assumed that as soon as he’d made enough progress, we’d go home.
One Saturday morning, Martin woke up on the wrong side of the hospital bed. His usual sweet, childlike self was gone and replaced with a grouchy old man. Whatever I did to help only frustrated him. When I opened the blinds, he wanted them closed. When I filled his water pitcher, there wasn’t enough ice in it. When I put more ice in it and set it on the tray table, he picked it up and moved it to the nightstand.
At first I was excited to see a little bit of fight in him. But as the morning wore on, all he did was fight. Nothing in our situation had changed; all of the routines remained the same. But for whatever reason, Martin was just out of sorts.
I tried to ignore his foul mood, but it seemed all he wanted to do was argue.
While Martin was in the bathroom, I called my dad. He happened to be in Atlanta for the weekend.
“Martin thinks I’m trying to hurt him.”
“What do you mean?” Dad asked.
“I don’t know. For some reason, he just thinks I am trying to hurt him. He’s been acting really strange.”
“I’ll be right there.”
While I waited for Dad to get to the hospital, the doctor came in on his morning rounds. I told him that Martin seemed unusually agitated and almost paranoid. “This kind of behavior isn’t unusual for brain surgery patients,” he said.
“Yeah, but it’s unusual for Martin.”
“We’ll run some tests,” he promised.
Of all the delusions Martin had, paranoia was the hardest to deal with because I couldn’t prove his concerns weren’t real. In addition, the paranoia made him lash out in unusual ways. So I was relieved when my dad arrived. He and Martin had always gotten along well.
“How are you doing, Martin?” Dad asked.
“Not good,” said Martin.
“Is there something I can do for you?” “No.”
Dad could tell something was wrong. This wasn’t the man we all knew and loved. He looked up at me and I shrugged. I didn’t know what to make of it either. While we exchanged looks, Martin picked up the corded controller and pushed the button for the nurse.
An older nurse with squeaky shoes appeared in the doorway. “Do you need something, Mr. Elvington?”
Martin nodded. As she approached him, he whispered loud enough for us to hear, “My father-in-law is trying to sabotage my care.” Though this wasn’t Martin’s regular nurse, I’d seen her around.
She glanced at Dad and me. I could tell she was thinking.
Martin grew more agitated. His eyes darted around the room as if he were in fear of someone or something. His fingers fidgeted among the folds in his sheet. He said it again, this time out loud, “He’s trying to sabotage my care.”
I’d never seen him like this toward my father. I was simultaneously worried and annoyed.
“Martin, stop,” I said.
But Martin wasn’t done yet. He pointed at me. “She’s compromising my care!”
I’m compromising his care?
For nearly two months, I hadn’t left his room. I’d slept on a pleather recliner that creaked every time I moved to get comfortable — which was all night long. I barely had a blanket and a pillow because laundry kept taking them, and it was hard to sleep with nurses and lab technicians coming in every four hours to check Martin’s vitals and draw blood. Even when they weren’t coming in, I lay awake making sure Martin didn’t get out of bed and hurt himself. While I admit I wasn’t exactly well rested and in my best mental state, I still couldn’t understand why he said I was compromising his care.
Seeing Martin’s heightened anxiety, the nurse pulled the blood pressure cuff down from the wall. “Ma’am, I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” the nurse said.
Are you kidding me?
“C’mon, Laura,” Dad said, taking my arm and pulling me toward the door. “I’ll take you to lunch.”
“This is unbelievable!” I said. But I knew Dad was right. I needed to get out of there and cool off.
Dad suggested several places we could go for lunch, but I was lost in my thoughts. This was not what I had planned. I don’t get it, God. Why this? Why now? I’m not sure how much more of this I can take! This was an unexpected hurdle in a race I never wanted to run. But there was nothing I could do about it. I was hurt and frustrated by the time we arrived at the restaurant.
“Can you believe Martin? That was so weird!” I said after the waitress took our drink order.
Dad had been such a big help to me throughout all of Martin’s struggles, always offering advice and suggestions both as a doctor and as a parent, but now he was quiet. Glancing up from my menu, I could tell something was on his mind. After the waitress took our lunch order, Dad folded his hands on the table, leaned in, and got really serious.
“You know, Laura, when it comes to Martin, I don’t think you’re as far out of the woods as you think you are.” He paused while he considered his words.
“Okay,” I said, sensing this conversation wouldn’t be pleasant.
“It’s not just about Martin living through this; it’s more than that. Martin needs to be stable enough for you to be able to take care of him at home. It’s not just about him being able to walk and feed himself. It’s much more than that.”
“What do you mean?”
“Martin might not be able to go home at all.”
The rest of our lunch was pretty quiet.
When I got back to the hospital, I wasn’t sure what kind of mood Martin was in, and I was afraid of running into the nurse with the squeaky shoes, so I decided to wait for the afternoon shift change before I went back. I headed to the ICU waiting room, where I could be alone with my thoughts. I plopped into a chair and folded my arms across my chest like a middle-schooler who’d been sent to the principal’s office for something she didn’t do.
Looking around at the half-drunk coffee cups, loosely folded newspapers, and torn magazines, I thought about how many hours I’d spent in that waiting room. Most of those hours had been spent wondering whether Martin was going to live or die. At every stage of his recovery, there had been new concerns about whether he’d make it. But when I had dared to imagine our future together, I’d always planned for us to be together in our condo.
I thought back to when the doctor brought Martin up from sedation. I remembered him telling me that Martin would go through a lot of goofy stuff. But until now, I hadn’t paid much attention to what he said after that: “And we don’t know whether he’ll snap out of it or not.”
Was he talking about this?
While it was becoming obvious that Martin wouldn’t completely return to his old self, it was hard to think that he might become someone else.
Before the surgery, Martin never had a mean bone in his body. Even when we argued, he wouldn’t get mad at me. I would try to bait him into a fight about something that upset me and he’d apologize: “I’m really sorry!” Or, “Oh, I did that? I’m so sorry, I won’t do it again.” At times it would frustrate me because he was so quick to take the blame and apologize.
But the Martin I left in the hospital room that morning was nothing like the Martin I remembered.
How will I be able to take care of him if he stays like this?
For the first time in weeks, I began to pray as I desperately sought God. What if this is my life from now on? How can I continue to love someone who thinks I’m out to get him? How am I supposed to serve him when he doesn’t believe I have his best interests at heart?
While I was crying out to God, I felt a warm and loving voice envelop me. God was speaking so clearly to my heart that it could have been an audible voice, though it wasn’t.
Laura, I do that for you every day, he said. I love you and I care for you. I have been faithful to you, yet you doubt Me every step of the way. Even now you think I’m trying to harm you, not do something good for you.
It was as if God took a spotlight and shined it on my dirty heart and dingy soul. How could I complain about Martin thinking I was trying to harm him when every day I thought the same thing about the God I dearly loved?
I began to weep. You’re right. Just like Martin this morning, I’ve doubted Your goodness when all You’ve ever done is care for me, love me, and forgive me.
In my doubt and distrust of God, I had failed to see the good things He had done for me. When His plans superseded mine, rather than trust Him, I argued why my plans were better than His and doubted His goodness.
But even when I doubted God’s goodness, He was good to me. I could do at least that much for Martin.
Martin and I had planned a perfect life, but God had interrupted our plans with what seemed like a much worse plan of His own. Have you ever felt that way? If God had just listened to you, things would have been okay. But now you are held captive by situations you never wanted to be in and can’t seem to get out of by yourself.
Though we like to think our plans are better than God’s, in fact, it’s quite the opposite: God’s intentions are so much grander than ours, we can’t even fathom what He has planned for us.
I don’t know what your original plan was, or how it may have gotten off track. Certainly your circumstance is not what you anticipated. It’s hard to think about starting your life over. But God has something better planned for you.
If you find yourself struggling in a situation you didn’t see coming, consider it an opportunity to trust God. When we trust that God is for us and not against us, we can see our future as He sees it. It is a future filled with plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.
And plans that will ultimately draw you closer to Him.
Myth: The plan I have for my life is much better than the place where God has me right now.
Truth: Where God has me right now is the best place for me.
Excerpted with permission from When God Doesn’t Fix It by Laura Story, copyright Laura Story Elvington.
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Life turned upside down for Laura and Martin. With one diagnosis life as they knew it would never be the same. But, God had better plans in mind for them, as He does for us. He will allow rain to fall in our lives, hardships to collapse on us, and times of suffering to stretch longer that we think we can possibly endure. He will follow a “worse plan” than the one we had in mind! What do we do in that place of pain? Trust Him! Come join the conversation on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full