I have a complex relationship with planning. I have always been a list maker who loves her planners and creates outlines in copious detail. I confess to being one of those who will add something to the list and check it off if I accomplish something that I did not have on the list to begin with. The sense of self-worth that comes with the check mark warrants the extra seconds it takes to add the new activity. I always plan. It seems hard-wired into my personality. My sister and I are regularly at odds over the topic because she is positivity list-averse. I was really lucky today. When I handed her a copy of the grocery list she put it in her purse. She never looked at it, but she accepted the proffered paper and she has refused in the past.

The complication in the planning exists in the fact that life often refuses to cooperate with my plans. If I have an important event planed I have backup plans for my backup plans. No matter how much I plan, something will always occur that I had not expected. This past week has been a case in point. A series of health problems occurred that have left a string of cancelled appointments and missed due dates. This post was supposed to be on Wednesday but it is now Sunday night. I have lived my life buffeted by endless health problems by always believing that tomorrow will be a good day. Today may be miserable but tomorrow holds the promise of greater strength. Sometimes my hope is fulfilled, sometimes it is not.

I often think that planning is just another way we humans seek to be in control. I have a valid reason for writing everything down. I often become very faint, have blurry vision and short-term memory difficulty. After I lie down long enough to get the blood back in my brain I remember everything. However, sometimes I need to be reminded of something while I am “hazy.” The help of written notes and computer generated alert tone reminders is tremendous.  In all candor, that is not the only reason I make so many plans. I also plan to have a sense of what to expect. I plan for today, tomorrow, next week, next year hoping to achieve a certain outcome.  It would also be true to say that no matter how successful the event I plan turns out I am never fully satisfied. Nothing is ever entirely what I had envisioned.

I have trouble getting everything on my To Do list done. I found that I average seventeen tasks every day on my list. Some days I expect still more. No, I do not list things like feed the dog or make my bed, the list is based on the assumption I will do the basics. There may be some wunderkind who can accomplish seventeen tasks on average every day.  I envy them. I have recently come to the realization that I may be expecting too much from myself.

I have decided to rename the list the Opportunities list as opposed to the To Do list.

Since I have plenty of vision and ample imagination it truly is a list of opportunities for what I may be able to accomplish. I may not be able to fully realize all of these goals in one day, but they are recorded so that I may accomplish them sooner as opposed to later. I will likely add new opportunities to the list in an hour. That is just fine. I will always see room for improvement and keep trying to perfect myself. Caught inside my own human limitations I aim for that which cannot be had. There is no need to despair. Tomorrow will be a better day!

I am not in control. Ultimately, God is the only one who knows exactly what tomorrow holds. I find comfort in this thought. He who holds the future in His hand, loves us unconditionally. I release my need to be all that I dream. I allow God to be in charge. Everything actually will work out according to His divine plan in the end. That does not mean that I will stop planning. On the contrary, my lists and agendas are one of the ways that I make my best effort to live my life fully for God. Migraines may come, but I know that the agenda will help me to do everything possible given the resources I have to work with that day. Things probably won’t turn out exactly as I expected every times, but sometimes they may exceed my expectations. There are times when things appear very bleak. That does not lead to despair. God sends His children on course-corrections. These are the very times I must let go of my fear over my loss, pause and like a wondering child ask with anticipation of my Abba*, “What’s next?”

This is the tenth installment On the Writing Life: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts, Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig. The online discussion group is hosted by Kate Motaung. See what everyone else is saying by clicking here.
*”Abba” is the Aramaic name that Jesus used for God our Heavenly Father in the Lord’s Prayer. It is actually the name little children use for father, probably better translated into modern English as “Daddy.”

Passages Through Pain

Passages Through Pain

Sitting in the dark with Jesus again,
Wondering when Life will begin.
Waiting through another migraine
Hoping it will not start once more.
When will Life finally be restored,
Full of vitality and activity?
Sitting in the dark with just my Lord.
Fighting frustration,
Too caught in thought to be bored.
Wondering the value of my life,
Grief sometimes searing like a knife
Dividing between the marrow and joints.
The Word, a comfort and also a choice.
How can I live most fully for God,
When sometimes my body won’t do what it should?
What is the value of this, little life
That looses bits and pieces amidst the strife?
How do I keep my spirit strong
In the tired waits and the bitter wrongs?
Questions not answers,
Throb with my head,
But I know who waits by my side
Through the long, dark hours,
The one who never leaves me,
In comfort embowers.
My spirit dances
Before my Lord.
Like a child with joy
Simply adored.
Knowing there is a reason
Though I haven’t the key
To unlock the answer
But that’s not for me.
He made me,
He planned this
He understands the pain
He has a purpose,
It will all come right in the end.

We Do Not Loose Heart

We Do Not Loose Heart

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal. 2 Corinthian 4:16-18

We do not loose heart…
What we see is such a poor reflection of what is to come. Some days all we see is heartache and loss. The dark can seem impenetrable. We are told in Scripture that light ultimately triumphs over dark, but there are days when the darkness seems to win.

The discordant notes of this life sound like they have taken over and threaten to derail the beauty of the music of life. The cacophony of sound threatens to overwhelm my migraine prone head into utter misery.

Dark and jarring sound are two images that seem at first contrary to a migraineur. Dark when one has a migraine is a relief. A cessation of pain comes with the evening darkness. Yet too much darkness does not really solve the problem, but merely hides it. Night does not reliably guarantee the end of a migraine.

Atonal music needs a harmonic resolution to feel complete. The amazing thing is that minor and discordant music can resolve into something which is beautiful in its entirety. Life has periods when it becomes atonal. It can seem as though the discord is consuming all of a life when it is really but a movement, adding depth and increasing the relief and sensation of a resolution.

It is hard to believe in the music of life, the absolute goodness of God and His never ending grace when it seems as though your life is surrounded by a modern symphony orchestra with each musician playing their own thing and creating an unbearable chaos. Family, friends, work associates, fellow Church members everyone needs a piece of you, something different from you, all at the same time. Life, sickness, hurt, need, poverty everywhere we experience pain…where is the harmony?

What we can hear, what we can see in any one moment is limited. We are finite beings. St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Corinthians, that what we see in the dark is not all that is there. All that we hear is not all that is sounding. It is cold and dark, it is March. The noise of town is less than in the summer, but still ever present in the day. But if I listen for them I hear the birds singing of spring to come. Only if I listen for them. When the traffic roars, my Dad’s tv blares, my sister’s stereo tries to drown it out and my head throbs, I forget to listen for the birds. Hope is always singing.

We do not loose heart, not because we are protected from life’s storms, but because we remember to listen. The affliction of the present is not all that is. God is still good and loving. Some day all the pain will fall away and the joyous resolution will overtake all of creation, and we will see how the world has become better through pain, the pain of the cross.

In Lent we remember that loss is not all that there is, but that sacrifice is the road that redeems and restores. Waiting is hard. Believing in a spring or hope that never seems to come can test us to the breaking point. Yet, because of Easter we do not break. We believe in what is not yet come, for He has come.