our plans in his hands

This is a post from Gabe and me both. We’ve talked about it, cried over it (okay, that was just me), and prayed over it. But I’m writing it since writing’s my thing (and he needs to rest), so it might seem like it’s more my perspective than his (which it is), but by the end, it should all wrap up with a big, tidy, happy bow of marital unity.

As all things in our marriage typically do (cough, cough).

This post is about our GOD’S plans for Cambodia, but first a little back story.

I’m a praying girl, I really am. I ask God very, very often to give me wisdom for this, that, and the other thing. I do.


It’s also easy for me to toss around phrases like “God’s will” without a whole lot of thought. And it’s easy for me to bulldoze ahead with my plans and then look behind me as an afterthought, “Hey, God! We’d love to have you along! Hurry and catch up!”

And so often, I have to check myself. Hold on a minute, Bessie. Am I SURE this is something God wants me to say/do, or is it something I want very badly, and I’m hoping he’ll forgive me if I act now, ask permission later?

But, on the flipside, I know a lot of people who seem to just sit around paralyzed with fear, not making a single move until they hear something really clear (what if I make a mistake?? what if I screw up??). But they never do hear something (maybe they’re not listening?). And then their life is over.

So. All that to say that our plans for Cambodia thus far have been 1.) pray for wisdom. 2.) take leaps of faith and trust God to work things out as he sees fit. 3) hold loosely to our own plans, knowing that God’s might be different.

I thought I had all three of those steps down. And then Gabe had a heart attack. And all of a sudden Cambodia became something I didn’t want to hold loosely, didn’t want to let go of, even if God’s plan was something different. I desperately didn’t want it to be.

But I knew my husband’s life was infinitely more important than this trip. And when his life was hanging in the balance, Cambodia wasn’t even a thought (that I remember). All I wanted was to spend another hour, day, week, year with my husband.

And then he came out of the cath lab and “God’s hand of favor was on your husband” (one nurse said) and “he’s going to be just fine.”

Tears, indescribable relief, love, gratefulness.

And, at some point, thoughts of Cambodia started flooding in. And while the timeline and my exact thought process/emotions are blurry, here’s the ugly part I don’t want to share. In the midst of my intense gratitude for Gabe’s life, I began feeling intensely sad about possibly (probably?) not being able to go to Cambodia. At one point, I was standing at the end of Gabe’s bed, massaging his feet, and the tears just started flowing. When he asked me what was wrong, I just shook my head and said I felt overwhelmed.

But I was really crying over my shattered dreams of Cambodia. When my husband just had a heart attack.

Gabe was afraid I’d make this post really, really long (totally unfounded fear, by the way), so let’s see if I can speed this up. If I recall correctly, I kept bringing up Cambodia, and Gabe kept saying, “We’ll just wait and see what Dr. S. says.” Dr. S. was the amazing dude who performed Gabe’s heart catheterization, unblocked his artery, and put the stent in place. Saved his life basically, and Gabe had his heart set on listening to whatever this guy said.

I, on the other hand, was dreading the chat with this doctor. What if he said it was a bad idea and he wouldn’t recommend it? I absolutely did NOT want to put my husband’s life in danger, but what if it really was safe for Gabe to go, but the doctor was afraid to say that because he wanted to cover his rear? I put myself in his shoes and thought, “No way would I tell some dude who just had a heart attack that he could board a plane to a third world country across the globe a mere six weeks later.” I wanted my husband and my Cambodia cake too.

And it hit me today (Tuesday) on the way home from the grocery store that I was desperate for some other opinions to fall back on in case Dr. S. said no. We talked to several nurses and a couple other doctors, but my (sub-conscious?) plan backfired. Because while a few of them said they didn’t see why we couldn’t go, just as many raised one red flag or another.

I kept fretting, Gabe stayed firm. “Stop worrying about it. We’ll talk to Dr. S.”

Monday morning. Dr. S. and his team come to visit Gabe in his room. He talks for about 2 minutes, says he’s doing great, and he’ll see him in six weeks. Starts to walk out of the room. I stop him, my heart racing.

“I have a question.”


“I’m not sure if you know about our trip to Cambodia. Is that…?”

“Yes, I know about that. And I see no reason why you shouldn’t go.”

Are. You. Kidding. Me??

He continued. “You’re doing well, you look great, I’m not worried about the flight, you’ll do fine. The only risk of course is that you’re heading to a third world country. The quality of their healthcare can’t be guaranteed.”

I wanted to jump up and down and scream, but instead I said, “We actually leave in six weeks. Could Gabe…?”

“I’ll see him in four weeks. How about that? And if everything checks out fine (and I don’t anticipate any problems), you’re good to go.”

Okay. Deep breath. Fast forward to the lesson I learned in all of this. I’m holding too tightly to my dreams. I need to SEEK GOD FIRST and all these things will be added to me. And if Christ is my first love, my heart’s desire, all I need, then anything that happens will work out for good. ANYTHING.

Even a cancelled trip to Cambodia.

Because the trusting isn’t over. God gave my husband a peace about trusting Dr. S. no matter what he said. But I didn’t believe that trusting Dr. S. would give me what I wanted. And so I didn’t trust. And I should have.

And now I have a second chance.

In four weeks, we’ll go get Gabe checked out and talk to Dr. S. In four weeks’ time, a lot could happen. Gabe’s heart might not improve, or what if it gets worse? Or what if Dr. S. realizes how dumb it was to give us the go-ahead and not cover his behind? What if he changes his mind?

If nothing changes, we’re going. Because ANY time you go to a developing country, you run the risk of needing better healthcare than they have available. Does that mean we shouldn’t spread the gospel to all nations? No. It means we trust God to take care of us.  Just like Gabe’s mom is doing right now in the middle-of-nowhere Kenya. And Pastor Rich will be doing next week in the middle-of-nowhere Ethiopia. At least we’ll be in a big city.

Anyway. I’m choosing to trust. No manipulating, no calling Dr. S’s office and giving him a link to this blog post, no nothing. Just trusting. I’ll pack our bags and we’ll get our shots and we’ll prepare to go. And if the last week of November rolls around and we find out we can’t, I’ll trust God’s perfect plan without pouting.

I hate that God exposed my selfishness and lack of faith, but I humbly ask you to pray for me, for us, that we’ll trust. And put God first.

Last thing, and I’ll end this really short post. I mentioned that Livi told me last night that God tells her things. “Sometimes he’ll tell me that things are going to be okay or that they’re not,” she said. I asked her to elaborate. “Even before Daddy’s heart attack, I was having a really bad feeling about Cambodia, like it wasn’t going to work out.”

I asked her how she was feeling about Cambodia now. “A lot better than I was feeling before,” she said, “but not perfect.”

“Did God tell you anything about Daddy?” I asked her. “Yes,” she said, “when they took him away in the ambulance.”

“And what did he tell you?”

“That he was going to be okay.”

32 thoughts on “our plans in his hands

  1. Megan at SortaCrunchy

    Goodness. So much to say. Mostly, thank you for being so honest with us. I’ve had moments like this – nothing quite like a heart attack and a trip to Cambodia, but still – where my grip on my own plans was made very, very real to me by circumstances. It’s startling and humbling – ESPECIALLY when the thing that is our plan is something that we truly believe to be God’s will for our lives.

    So thank you for writing with such transparency about how all of this is shaping up, both Cambodia and *your* heart. Love y’all.

  2. Rebekah Gambrell

    amazing how in tuned a child can be to God. I remember knowing as a child so many things…. faith as a child right? I believe that as an adult I have let doubt creep in and cloud my judgment and sin has caused me to second guess myself.
    We had a similar experience with my youngest child. We were about to go to Brazil 4 weeks after my 4th would be born. I figure “no big deal” … well long story short… she was born with a small birth defect but in the end everything worked out and our faith was stretched and so was our patience.

  3. Tonia

    Praying for you. What a powerful story. Your honesty is so very encouraging. We are on the brink of having to trust God in some big decision making that will change our lives (not life or death like yours). It’s so encouraging to know that I’m not the only one that struggles with God wanting to fit into my box. I’m praying to take a leap of faith like I never have and see where He takes me. I’m praying the same for you. I really feel like this experience has added even more depth to the message that you can carry over there. Praying for your family, especially Gabe, and that God will make Cambodia possible for you. I’m just looking forward to living vicariously and hearing all about it from you.

  4. Mandy A.

    Okay, so FIRST…I need to acknowledge how VERY much I needed to read these words. In the midst of a divorce, I keep SAYING I want “God’s will,” and like you…I feel now like I throw it around a little too lightly. I mean…I DO want his will, but sometimes I REALLY want MY will with God’s stamp of approval. After reading your post, I realized that I need to “be still, and KNOW” that HE is God, and HIS will is GOING to be done. I have to learn to accept that and get out of HIS way. 🙂
    Secondly, I had tears when I read what your daughter said. What a WONDERFUL revelation! She is so confident, and sure of her relationship with God! What a wonderful testimony!!!!
    I will continue to pray for you, and your family. Know that “ALL things work together for good,” and rest in HIS promise! 🙂
    Thank you for being such a servant to our MIGHTY God!

  5. Kelsie

    Okay, so there are tears from that last sentence. The whole post was encouraging, of course, but MAN – what a powerful faith your precious daughter has! Will be praying for Him to increase your faith!! (And remember, we all struggle w/times of doubt, selfishness, uncertainty – you’re not alone.)

  6. Rhonda

    Thank you for always being so honest about your feelings. It is easy to get down on myself for being so selfish about what I want and it helps to know that other women who are striving to please God with their lives struggle too. I’ll continue to keep your family in my prayers trusting God to reveal his perfect plan for your trip.

  7. Danielle

    What a great and wonderfully infinite God we have! He is using completely different things, to teach me the same lessons. We all desperately need to learn to trust our Father, rely on his all-sufficiency, and learn to breathe in the will of our King. But he is so creative, he teaches this to each of us in the ways he thinks we will learn best.

    Prayed for Livi’s future husband just now. That boy, wherever he is, needs to start being prepared for the passionate, God-fearing, man that he needs to be when this girl comes into his life.

    Praying for receptive hearts to learn what God has for you in the coming weeks, and for continued recovery for Gabe.

  8. Sharon W

    I certainly understand you not wanting to miss out on the trip. I’d be so bummed for you all if you don’t end up going. But, as the saying goes, “The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will.” My prayer will continue to be for clarity in whether or not you all should go on your trip.

    That is awesome about Livi. There was a lady who did children’s ministry at my old church and she said, “Kids don’t have a Junior Holy Spirit. They have the same one that we do.” What an amazing example Livi is of this.

  9. Rachelle

    This post is really encouraging. An example of trusting God when things have been turned upside down, in our view. Thank you, you have no idea how this message has blessed me today.

  10. Jennie Sizemore

    Oh, Marla. It means so much that you share your heart like this. Your honesty is so encouraging. I’m so glad Gabe is doing well. And that Livi…wow! Thank you again for sharing your family’s stories. I’m off to get a tissue now. 🙂

  11. Holly B.

    Praying for God’s timing, friend! If it were necessary, could the trip be postponed? Wondering if you could get a doctor’s note and still use those tickets at a later time if needed?

  12. Sheree

    To use the words of a really neat lady I know, that would be YOU; “oh, be. still. my. heart.” The last part you shared about your daughter, priceless. Still praying for you, Friend!!!!

  13. Claudia

    God is so good! God is so good! God is so good! Excited for the work God is doing in you, Marla! Jumping for joy at the faith of Livi!

    This post was timely. Have a meeting this am followed by a manjor decision that will have to be made. Still trying to figure out of this is my dream or God’s plan. Your words were encouraging!

  14. janelle

    If Livi is hearing this young…..my smile can not be wiped off….and for you….”letting her voice, not be ashamed, live in…” what the Holy Spirit is telling her…You, Marla are developing a true woman of God….may He use her mightily ! amen !

  15. Ruth Chowdhury

    Okay thought I was doing fine with no tears until I made it to the part where Livi said, “that he was going to be okay”. What a lesson in trust, submission (to your husband), & grace! I will continue to pray for you!

  16. LS

    girlfriend. . .you are giving me some good cleansing cries this week. beautiful. i love you and your realness. . .and the beautiful and faithful heart our Daddy gave your baby girl. . .

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