(Taken on my walk between the lake cabins and Campground #1, Mo. Highway 157, Thousand Hills State Park, Kirksville, MO, October 7, 2011)
May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise, and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.
--Therese Martin (Therese of Liseaux)
One of the most amazing things about my "stay-cation" in the first part of October was deciding--literally on a whim--to spend the night in one of the cabins at Thousand Hills Lake. Turned out I was there literally during the peak foliage week. I could not have planned it.
I'm beginning to be a believer more in the unplanned than in the planned.
Oh, don't get me wrong. I love it when the things I've planned turn out just right. There's a pleasure in that. But there's also an apprehension. All planned things have a dose of the "what if?" in them. In all planned things, we have to at least think ahead on them enough so that if something doesn't go perfectly, we have a fallback option. If, for some reason, imperfections occur, they can overshadow the good, and instead of seeing the good, and instead of a reasonably pleasant experience, we see failure. It really brings home that old saying, "The perfect is the enemy of the good."
Now, that's not to say I didn't plan this overnight foray at all. I made my list of what to bring on short notice, and decided I would accept the fact that, if I forgot something, well, I just forgot it, and I would live with the consequences. I would use my wits to have an acceptable alternative. I did forget to bring paper towels. But I solved the problem by inviting one of my friends to a dinner that I grilled on the fire, and the "price of admission" for her was a few paper towels.
Years ago, I used to plan my vacation weeks right down to where I'd stay on which nights, and have expected destinations and set itineraries for each day. For the last three years, my vacations have been, "I'll go there and see what I see, and do what strikes me." The only timetables have been tickets for planes and trains. I've discovered I like this better.
It's also not to say some things DO need precise planning. For instance, it would be foolhardy and potentially fatal to start across Death Valley--even in a car--without water, or to set out into the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota with no survival gear, no food, and no compass.
But what we discover when we let ourselves be just a little less planned and a little more vulnerable about it, is that we will undoubtedly see and experience things we did not expect. Whether those things are good or bad is not the point. It's being aware of the experience and being awake throughout it that matters.
This is true for our spiritual lives as well. I've thought about Sundays that I have attended worship in times of strife, or turmoil, or uncertainty with a preconceived notion of "what I need to get out of it" on that particular day. I almost never get it. Yet, even if I have the same kinds of stressors in my life on a different Sunday, and I go with the notion that I will go simply to see what shakes out that is of value to me, and see it and accept it for what it is, I almost always find I got more than I imagined I would from the experience. Sometimes, emotionally overwelmingly so.
That phenomenon is not just about worship. It's about every single thing I've offered of myself in service to God, and about most of the times I've actually felt the presence of God. God doesn't tell us, "I'll meet you at 10:35 by the food court and I'll have a red shirt on."
What I have come to understand is this: In my plans, I generally have one perfect outcome. When I give them up, and accept God's plans--plans that do not require either/or decisions or everyone in the story doing my will or following my desires--the possibility opens up for multiple perfect outcomes.