Preparation vs. Planning
Happy New Year's Day!
I am looking out on a welcome sight this morning--a blanket of snow. As we have not yet invested in a snow shovel upon our return to the Midwest, it might seem strange that the white flakes bring me such comfort...but they do. I think anyone who has witnessed the drought in Kansas and the rest of the Great Plains would accept moisture in any form right now.
Droughts are difficult to plan around because one never knows exactly how long they'll last. The same might be true for life circumstances that are totally beyond our control. The financial setbacks, health concerns or heart break that come out of the blue and extend beyond our resources to cope.
This year, I will focus on being better prepared for all things. We still have a plan...a plan to get out of debt; rebuild retirement savings; help the kids with college and to improve our drafty, dear old house. But I know for a fact those plans can all fizzle.
It is how we cope when our plans hit roadblocks that I believe sets the stage for how the story of our lives unfolds. And for those times we need to be prepared.
I think there are three things that will be critical to laying the foundation that not only will help me stand the buffeting winds that erode plans, but also to be stronger, more consistent and more intentional as I move forward into the second half of my life.
Peace. Purpose. Playfulness.
Here's why I've chosen these as the words to light my way in preparing myself to be my best in all situations.
First, it's an alliteration. Hello. Mimi Mathers Meredith from Merriam St. in Miles City, Montana...I adore alliterative structure. It is also easier to remember and forms a mantra with which I can breathe...or sing...myself through life.
Second, in reviewing the triggers that shut down my personal channels of goodness, I can see that they are situations in which I fail to focus on these three things.
When I allow my own sense of drama or the world's chaos to claim center stage, it can be fun. As a fairly articulate and lively person, I can build on those chaotic elements and command attention; generate energy and build a wave to ride for a day, a week or a month. The wave can be one of anger, or perhaps a sense of entitlement--the theme song of Victims United.
In contrast, when I am able to maintain a sense of peace in those situations, I find a truer space for discernment. I learn more because I listen from a true desire to understand. It isn't as exciting as all that dramatic hullabaloo, but it is better in every sense. I share the stage or even just work backstage to support an outcome that is beyond my own design and features God's handiwork through many capable actors. It is a richer, calmer and more productive existence.
How is that a preparation rather than a plan? Well, I personally never know when those situations are going to arise that can throw me into a whirling dervish mode. But I can prepare my spirit and my heart for them by embracing a more peaceful approach in every situation.
The same is true of honoring my purpose. I am not sure if or when it will ever be clear to me that I have achieved my purpose. I think I have an inkling now and then of how it feels. When I connect with people I am close. I know this thing...this thing I'm doing right now is nearer to my core than virtually anything else I do. So I know I shouldn't neglect it. I've just never successfully named it. Over the last year, I've mostly neglected writing, and my spirit has not been the same. I will ponder on this in the months ahead and see where it takes me.
Finally, I will be more playful. I know I have a great sense of fun and am good humored, but truly, I make less time for play than anyone I know, even if playtime is time to read or sit. I told my friend Tim at Christmas that I was going to put myself in timeouts more often. While this sounds like a punishment, to me, it is bliss.
How did I discover this great truth? Gel nails!
I had nail polish that is virtually indestructible applied to my nails for a Christmas party. Three weeks later, my nails had grown out and the polish simply had to come off. But I was in Red Lodge, Montana, on a mountainside that I did not care to slide down to the nearest salon for the sake of my vanity. So, I had to sit and soak my nails in acetone polish remover for ten minutes. Ten minutes of sitting without moving. I couldn't even sip my coffee. It was soooo relaxing!
My yoga friends have been practicing the art of meditation for years. I just never have been good at it. I put a peaceful expression on my face and then let my mind cheat. And I never sit for the prescribed time. After five minutes, I find myself thinking, "alrighty then, that'll do!" Perhaps a playful spirit begins with practicing silence. Whatever playfulness means to me at the moment...I want to get better at allowing the space in my crowded being for it to be a priority.
Greg just left to buy a snow shovel. He's prepared.
And you, my friends...how will you prepare yourselves to grow greater goodness in the world? Let's encourage one another as we move onward and upward into this new year.