I stepped to the podium to speak at a Kentucky Women’s Conference one brisk October morning at the exact time the Celebration of Life for my close friend, Cindy, was scheduled back home in Florida.

Cindy was truly dear to my heart in every way. A sudden and shocking diagnosis of stage IV pancreatic cancer had called her to heaven much sooner than I was willing to let her go.

I hated—and I really do mean hated—missing the celebration of Cindy’s life, but it could not be helped. This conference had been scheduled for nearly a year. And when one is the keynote speaker, one cannot simply not show up.

I had a speech all planned for the conference that morning, but as is often the case with our well-made plans, Papa God had other ideas. “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps,” (Proverbs 16:9, NLT).

As I stood at the podium, I felt those holy elbow jabs to the gut I often receive when the Holy Spirit is trying to tell me something (whispering doesn’t always work with me; sometimes He has to yell or lock me in a halfNelson to get my attention).

I first ignored it and kept blabbering my prepared speech. But I finally stopped and listened to the directive Papa God was giving me: Honor Cindy. Right here. Right now. These ladies don’t know her but they’ll understand. Each of them has someone they need to grieve alongside you.

So I shared the story of my Florida girlfriend with 200 Kentucky women who’d never met her. And the gospel of the saving grace of Jesus Christ flowed. Because that was Cindy’s story. She’d cherished her relationship with her living, loving Savior down to her last breath here on Earth.

And she knew beyond a shadow of a doubt where she would be spending a glorious eternity.

There were lots of tears that day. Empathetic tears for me and for a sister in Christ they’d never met. And tears for departed loved ones in their own lives.

I prayed that my impromptu message from Philippians 4—finding hope in the midst of despair—would be received by my audience of one. (Before I speak at an event, I always pray that the Lord would lead me to say precisely what one person there needs to hear from Him).

Sure enough, a tearful young woman approached me afterward; Papa God had used Cindy’s story to remind her of the joy existing beyond the grief of losing her mother. She felt the need to give the sorrow she’d been stuck in for far too long to the Lord and begin to move forward.

What a blessing that change of plans turned out to be.

How about you, my friend—are you flexible enough to alter your plans at the prompting of the Holy Spirit?