A few weeks ago, Mark and I awoke to a 6am text from our daughter-in-love.
“When you guys wake up, can you give me a call?”
She and our son Austin were scheduled to leave for Mexico within 24 hours and her mom was to keep the kids for their seven-day trip. However, her mom woke up sick with COVID-19. We were suddenly Plan B. We had a packed schedule of marriage coaching, and meetings, and projects, but we knew how important this trip was to them because they’d had it planned for almost a year.
Larisa just graduated with her doctorate in nursing in May all while caring for two foster kids (they’re entering their 3rd year of foster care) and having a little one of their own. This was a celebration trip, and a much-needed break from parenting three kids 5 and under.
Mark and I did a little bit of rescheduling and said yes. After all, this is what the ministry of availability looks like.
Over those seven days, we went to the park, blew bubbles, played house, went to the pool, read books, helped them in and out of dress up clothes, answered a million “why” questions, kissed boo boos, gave them hundreds of underdogs on the swings, and did all the other activities that go along with caring for little ones.
Life isn’t always neat and clean. Sometimes ministry opportunities are presented and we need to have the flexibility to meet a need. When you think about it, Jesus operated with a “ministry of availability” mindset. He loved on whoever was in front of him. He went into His days open-handed.
Jumping in to help at the last-minute wasn’t convenient. It required a lot of adjustment. However, the time was such a blessing and we’re both glad we said yes.
As I look back at my years of parenting, there have been so many situations like this.
Like the time my son, who was learning to drive, forgot to watch the gas meter and we ended up stranded on the side of the highway for a couple hours in freezing cold weather. That was very unexpected, but we laughed and talked and made the best of the time.
Like the times my daughter always seemed to be most open to talk at the most inconvenient times in my schedule. I had to adjust my plans to connect with her when she was most willing to talk.
Like when I was “in-the-zone” on a project and my son called to ask if I could pick him up early from a friend’s house. I had to let go of the plan I had in my mind and adjust.
I’m sure you can think of times when you’ve had to do the same. However, how was your attitude doing it?
How Do You Respond to the Unexpected?
Whether it’s in parenting, friendships, marriage, home ownership, vacations, or any other part of life, there will always be “the unexpecteds.” How do you respond when something unexpected comes up? Do you respond in frustration, disappointment, or annoyance? Or do you recognize the opportunity to practice the ministry of availability?
It all comes down to control. There’s absolutely no way to control real life—and that doesn’t settle well for most of us. We want to be in control. We want life to go the way we want. We make a plan, and we errantly expect it to come to fruition. When it doesn’t go the way we planned, we find ourselves angry, frustrated, and grasping to maintain the illusion of control.
Control is really a mirage. The only control you and I can really have is self-control, and the Bible says that is a fruit of the Spirit. In other words, we can’t have self-control on our own; it comes from letting God be the real leader of our lives and the manager of our hearts.
We can plan, but when our plans go awry, we need self-control to hold our tongues. We can set goals, but when something blocks our goals, we need self-control to keep anger at bay. We can think through the details of a project, but when it doesn’t go as planned, we need the self-control to roll with the changes that become necessary.
More importantly, we need perspective to keep us from reacting when our plans fall through. We need the perspective that the moment we are in is just as important as the moment we planned on that didn’t happen the way we thought it would. Think about that for a moment. We need to embrace “what is” instead of “what could have been.”
When we don’t value the moment we are in as much as the one we planned, we’ll miss out on precious time with those we love. Sometimes we’ll do more than miss out on precious time with them, we’ll ruin an unexpected opportunity given to us.
Today I want to simply remind you to hold your plans loosely and God’s hand tightly. Be sensitive to the doors He opens even if they collide with your plans. Embrace “what is” and let go of “what is not.” Ask God to give you a heart of joy that appreciates whatever moment you are experiencing—even if it wasn’t something you planned. Being committed to the ministry of availability will allow you opportunities you might not have otherwise.
Looking for some time away to connect with your spouse and explore a new area? Join us for our marriage getaway in Holland, MI from September 30 – October 2, 2022.
Looking for more on this topic? I have a chapter on “No More Perfect Days” in No More Perfect Moms. Get your copy here!
Do you feel like your marriage is hanging on by a thread (or you want to make sure it doesn’t get there)? Consider our Marriage 2.0 Intensive that we host right here at our home in Normal, IL. We only work with one couple at a time. We’d love to work with you!
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