Friday, March 13, 2009

The Curveballs of Life

"Throw Boy" by Nick Rebollozo (Public Domain)

"We make plans, and God laughs." ~ Yiddish Proverb

I have taken the Meyers Briggs personality test a few times in my life for various organizations. For three of the four categories, I end up right on the dividing line, neither on one side or the other. However, when it comes to the J (judging) vs P (perceiving), I am a definitive, indisputable "J." Being a "J" doesn't mean that I'm judgmental, which is what I was afraid of the first time I took the test! It actually has to do with how you live your outer life, the way you behave, your habitual manner that others see, the types of lifestyle choices you tend to make. To others, "J"s tend to look very orderly; we like to have things organized and we tend to feel better when decisions are made and settled rather than having things up in the air. On the inside, we may still be flexible and enjoy spontaneity, but our outer life will make us appear appropriately suited to be excellent librarians.

So, yes; I'm a planner. I planned my entire wedding myself, since it took place 3,000 miles away from my family--and my maid-of-honor. I loved every minute of it and never felt stressed out or overwhelmed, despite the dozens and dozens of lists that I had tacked everywhere in my dorm room to help me keep things straight. Every night, I write up a to-do list of everything that needs to get done for the next day. Sometimes I write one for my husband, too. I have two calendars (one with all appointments, which is next to my desk, and one with occasions and events that will effect my husband right next to the door so he can glance at it on his way out; incidentally, he is NOT a "J") and a planner that I take with me. I plan menus for holidays and birthday parties at least a month in advance--and have fun altering them multiple times over the following weeks leading up to the event. I am not a procrastinator. I'm not saying I'm not lazy; I am. But, I also get anxious if I've purposely left undone those things which I could do today. So, I tend to overcome my laziness from sheer restlessness.

This is the way I like things: organized, planned, orderly, settled, decided. It makes me happy. I love checking off items on my lists. I love writing my lists. I love compiling folders of ideas for things I'd like to do in the future. Fortunately, on the inside, I'm also flexible when it comes down to it. As the proverb above states, God and I have had some pretty good laughs together throughout my life! This week has been one of those running jokes.
On Monday, I had planned to sweep off our porches. We live in a third-story condominium, which happens to be the top floor, and every year in late February, our landscaping crew comes along and blows all the debris from the roof onto our balconies, so this is always a part of my Lenten Spring Cleaning regimen. Well, wouldn't you know, on Sunday night, it started snowing cats and dogs (can it snow cats and dogs?), breaking a two-decades-long record. It hardly ever snows here all winter, let alone in March. Well, I thought, there's no way it'll stick; it's sure to melt by tomorrow. I'll just sweep the porches then. Au contraire. There are still patches of snow all over our yard, and the debris on the porches is now encased in ice! Unless I attach a chisel to my broom, those porches are not getting swept this week.

Wednesday, my husband calls at 2:20 to tell me he's just been informed he needs to be at a meeting at 2:30...which might last as late as 7:00! "No problem," I say, "I actually had leftover planned for dinner tonight, so don't worry what time you come home; we just need to reheat them." Ah, I think to myself, my planning has saved me once again... 7:00 rolls around. No call, no husband. I decide to feed Sophia dinner. 7:30...same thing. I put the baby to bed. Finally, my husband calls me about 7:45; he'll be home by quarter past eight. I neaten up in anticipation of his return. He walks in; I give him a kiss and say, "Great! I'm starving; let's eat." He gets a terribly guilty look on his face and says, "Oh...I thought you were going to have leftovers...I ate pizza at the meeting." I laugh as I heat up my leftover quiche and make myself a salad. Here I was, seven months pregnant, ready to gnaw my arm off, relying on my "brilliant" planning...and he'd already eaten! I could have had dinner hours ago! Not only that, but Sophia wakes up calling for "Daddy!" the second she hears his voice. So much for trying to stick to routine :-) Out she comes to play with Daddy while Mama eats dinner at 8:30... There's always tomorrow for routine.

Thursday rolls along: my shopping day. Following an old routine for chores, which makes Thursdays "marketing days", I always go grocery shopping on Tuesdays. I even have a routine for doing the shopping. Our COSTCO opens at 10:00, and I've discovered that if I show up at 10 minutes to the hour, I can get one of those coveted parking spots right in the front of the giant lot. If I show up at 5 minutes to the hour, I'll be trudging through the cold with Sophia from the back of the parking lot. So, Sophia and I show up at COSTCO at 9:50, go shopping at COSTCO, then hop back in the car and swing around to pick up non-bulk items at our local Safeway and then drop off/pick up library books at the library that's a block away from the Safeway before heading home. Usually, I can complete our weekly shopping and library trip in an hour. It's amazing the things that can make you feel so accomplished when you're pregnant and raising a toddler!

Well, this particular Thursday, this "J" was going to get a big laugh from the Lord. Wouldn't you know our car battery died from the unprecedented cold? So, Brian has to come home on his lunch hour to check out what's going on and replace the battery. Thank goodness he's salaried, so he can do these sorts of things! So, no "sweet spot" for COSTCO, and here I am, a complete morning person, running all my errands in the afternoon. Not to mention, the money for the new battery threw our budget a bit off-balance, too; another plan gone awry. God must be chuckling away.
And, today? Well, this morning, I had planned to go to a Moms & Tots group at church that I'd been looking forward to for two months, since I'd had to miss last month's meeting. I got Sophia all dressed and fed, got myself ready, got us down to the car...and the discovered that thanks to our fiasco from yesterday, the carseat was missing! My husband had forgotten to put it back in the van after we got a new battery yesterday and he'd driven off with it in his car to work!

Of course, these are all relatively small, silly instances. Sometimes life throws us a curveball that we really don't want to laugh at. Sometimes, if our plans get blown to smithereens, we consider that if God were to laugh at us now, He really would be rather cruel. When those days come, I like to keep in mind that God is still in control. My plans might be shot to heck, but His plans are always accomplished. Case in point, the night of our rehearsal dinner:

Remember that wedding I told you I had planned to a t? Well, all of our out-of-town guests (which included our parents, honor attendants, and three of our other six attendants) flew into town the day before our wedding. We had the rehearsal that night, and dinner right in the fellowship hall of the church because we all had to get to bed early so we could be ready for an 11 AM wedding the next morning. I wake up the day of the rehearsal to an unpleasant phone call: my grandmother had to get frisked at the airport, thanks to all the post-9/11 security measures, and she had an anxiety attack and had to be taken to the hospital. Thankfully, she was fine, but she wouldn't be able to fly, and my two aunts who were with her had missed their plane. You better believe I started that day with some serious prayer. Later that morning, I get another call: somehow, my aunts managed to get on a nother flight and were on their way! I was overjoyed; some more prayer was in order.

For the rest of the day, things were going pretty well. Of course, my bridesmaids and I were running late for the rehearsal, since we'd been finalizing plans all day long. When we showed up, the walkway in front of the church was packed with our out-of-town guests...and the doors were locked. We called the wedding coordinator. No answer. We called again. And again. And again. I think our best man's phone record showed that he called her about two dozen times. Well, it was beginning to get late, and we still had a lot to do, including setting up the tables at the reception hall for the next day. We sent two of our groomsmen to get the food for dinner, and decided to head across the street to an open classroom where I knew there was a piano to start the rehearsal. (To clarify, our wedding took place on our college campus with the ceremony at the campus church and reception at the beautiful ballroom built in 1925.) Meanwhile, a couple of guests tried breaking into the church for us. This brought the campus security around, but they were very helpful. Unfortunately, they were still not permitted to let us into the building without the missing wedding coordinator. Finally, nearly two hours late, the coordinator showed up! She said she'd had an emergency at her other job and had forgotten her cell phone. Thanks to a lot of prayer, I can say I experienced one of the most Spirit-filled moments of my life just then--then: when I might have exploded in anger at this woman. I asked her if she was alright, assured her that we would be fine, and gave her a hug. Of course, she started crying and thanked me. But, I know it wasn't me. That was God speaking through me.

Our groomsmen returned with the food. We had a great dinner and time of thanking our attendants, guests, and parents and distributing little gifts to everyone who had helped with the wedding. We did a quick rehearsal. We ran over to the reception hall--several of my relatives came along to help us set up--and we got everything finished by the time we had originally planned to be done, even with the two hour delay! We headed back to the hotel, got a good night's sleep and were more than ready the next morning. And, wouldn't you know...we weren't supposed to be able to have our photographer move around to take pictures during the ceremony, but because of the fiasco the night before, the wedding coordinator didn't intervene when our photographer decided to take a few liberties, and we got some amazing pictures!

There's nothing wrong with planning, but we have to remember to be flexible. When life throws you a curveball, you either need to catch it, hit it, or get out of the way. If you're not flexible; it's going to hit you! When we take the curveballs as they come, we most often learn things: about life, about ourselves, about others, and about God. We may also find that God had a better plan in store, but we weren't listening; so He had to mess up our lesser plans in order for us to follow His. Keep your sense of humor, and remember, if God's laughing, it really is better to laugh along... I've found that if you make a habit of this, you'll even get the joke from time to time. And, of course, if you need to cry rather than laugh, remember the shortest verse in Scripture: "Jesus wept" (John 11:35).

""The best-laid plans of mice and men
often go awry."
- adapted from "To A Mouse" by Robert Burns

1 comment:

  1. contrary to popular belief, i think we actually become more flexible as we age. the small things distress us much less because we have seen the Lord bring us safely through even the largest things♥

    have a blessed weekend, my dear!

    ReplyDelete

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