[Not] According to Plan

It was late. Then it was lost. Then it never showed up at all.

I am not one that has to make lots of resolutions to begin the New Year, but I do make plans. I conceive goals that I want to accomplish. I have tasks that must be completed. I have a schedule of appointments that are often at least a year in advance. I use a planner to put all of this together. And when the planner is behind schedule, everything feels out of joint. A planner like myself without the device in hand is somewhat lost, or at least, leaning in that direction.

I was wondering how I had gotten to this situation. After all, I had adjusted the subscription date so that it would ship at least ten days before the end of the year. I had updated my information so that the shipping and billing addresses, the phone number, and the email were all current. I had done everything I could to insure I would not only have my planner in hand, but that it would be in hand with plenty of advance time so that when New Year’s Day arrived the scheme was ready to hit the ground running. Folks who like to plan always like to plan ahead.

Now I was faced with no planner and no advance time to get underway. The package had apparently shipped; I had definitely been billed. But somewhere between its point of origin and my house there was some problem. It appeared to have gotten to Kansas City and then disappeared. What originally had been an expected delivery date of 12.25.18 was changed to ‘no expected delivery date,’ and that was finally changed to: “there is no tracking information on this number.” Apparently there is some kind of void in the Midwest into which my future was destined to disappear. All my plans were on hold and I was not holding on too well.

This was not going according to plan. The best laid plans of mice and men oft times go astray, to paraphrase Robert Burns. (By the way, Burns’ Night happens to be January 25, and I would have written it in my planner had the planner actually arrived. We have already been planning for supper that night, in fact.)

It is frustrating to have plans go astray. It is something that we all have to learn to live with. No one is ever going to account for every eventuality that may affect the intended outcome. You’ve probably had at least some of these. There are flat tires to deal with and dead car batteries. There is weather and cancelled flights. There are traffic jams and train crossings. There are children who do not cooperate at precisely the moment it is most needed. There is illness and accident that come about suddenly. There are some days when it seems as if the whole world is conspiring to make sure one’s plans do not come to fruition.

But it is even more ironic to have a company that purports to help you set your goals and achieve them then not be able to deliver on that promise. It’s not like I was asking for financial independence or a miracle cure—I just wanted my planner in hand on the expected date. A book in a box through the shipping operation of a company that tends to millions of packages a day—not exactly a major accomplishment. I was simply ordering what they were in business to provide. Okay, rant officially over.

I did adjust—one thing good planners like myself will do is to adapt, adopt, and improve. So I quickly changed plans and ordered a different planner from a different company that arrived only a few days later. Book, box, shipped—just as if it was how they meant for it to be. It is still the first week of the year, so it’s not as if I am terribly behind, although I do feel the stress. I can still work on my goals and put together projects that can be dissected and directed until they are executed and achieved. Have no fear, I will still be making plans and writing them on paper and moving forward. My need to organize will not be thwarted!

But another aspect of this whole process serves as a good reminder. I can make my plans, but sometimes something better presents itself. Many have been the times when my intentions have been interrupted by an appointment that I did not see coming. There have been ‘chance encounters’ that produced valuable relationships. There have been ‘disappointments’ that actually kept me from situations that would have been far worse. It seems impossible to write in ‘serendipity’ on the calendar; ‘grace’ does not usually appear on my to-do list. And yet, such things do appear—in their own time, in their own way—often in spite of my plans— not because of them.

Perhaps more than anything I need to be mindful of elements that are beyond my control and that something is always going to be beyond my control. I do not run the world, or even my own little corner of it.

Amid my frustration I became more aware of my need for humility. I remembered Proverbs 3:5-6 which I had learned as a child: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence. Know him in all your paths, and he will keep your ways straight.” (CEB). I fool myself thinking my intelligence is enough to get me through. I sometimes think that my planning will prevent unseen forces at work.

I need to be mindful that God has plans for me that I have neither seen nor understood. Even Jeremiah, the most difficult of prophets, could still say of God, “I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.” (Jer. 29:11, CEB).

So let the world breathe a sigh of relief—Les has his planner in hand. There will be lists made and blank boxes filled in and lines drawn to keep it all in order; my planners reveal something of my mindset, after all. But maybe we should take a deeper breath and give thanks that the Master Planner is still at work, even if I have not yet made list number one.

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I’ve been blogging for six months now and I have truly enjoyed it. I am hoping that this blog will be conversational. If you have found it and found something of value in it, I would love to hear from you. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, or would like me to write about a particular topic, please let me know. Thanks for reading, following, and sharing.

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