Raise your hand if you’ve ever had one of those days that did NOT go at all how you planned. You know, the kind where you keep asking yourself, “What the what?!!!” A day when you feel like your plans were hacked?
This was yesterday for me.
For those of you who don’t know, I live in a small town, population 25,000. It’s a beautiful, charming, hip, college town, small town with funky boutiques and adorable cafes, but like I said, it’s small. So every now and then, I have to be like Laura Ingalls, climb into my covered wagon and head into TOWN, translation a city with national chains, with a mall. For me, this city is Cincinnati. The shopping area that serves most of my needs is an hour away. Not a huge deal, but definitely a planned trip, not a spontaneous errand. And when I go, I have a list.
So yesterday was a day I’d planned to head to Cincinnati. There was a lovely event planned at my daughter’s school. The length of said event was unknown, but I knew I would have a chunk of time to head down to Cinci, run some big city errands, grab lunch with a friend who lives down there, and get back in time to pick up my kids from school.
The event was over sooner than expected. I hugged my daughter, hopped in my car and headed south. As I parked, I noticed a text from my husband saying, “Visa called, our credit card had been hacked.” He knew I was planning on shopping and wanted to warn me I no longer had access to credit.
No problem. The mall had an ATM.
I grabbed the pair of shoes I’d ordered for my son to wear for Easter from Children’s Place that were too big and headed inside. Only to discover the Children’s Place at the mall had closed.
Okay, so that errand would have to wait for another day.
I redirected myself to the ATM machine and inserted my card. It spit back out at me. I flipped it over and tried again. The machine told me there was an error. I wiped the card off on my jeans and reinserted it. The machine asked me to try again. After ten attempts and starting to feel as conspicuous as if I was trying to print counterfeit money, I walked away. So here I was at the mall with no credit card and about $12 in my wallet an hour and a half before I was supposed to meet my friend.
I texted her and said I was running early, if she was around, but if not, I understood.
She texted back immediately, “I’m running errands in the area, can be there in ten minutes.”
The first thing out of my friend’s mouth after we hugged was, “You know, it’s crazy, this is the only week of the entire month I could have met you for lunch, and the only day I had such a wide window of time. I’m so glad you called, and I’m so glad you were early.”
So we began our visit at 11:00 AM instead of 12:30 PM. We sat in Panera until 1:45 PM. Instead of a quick catch up session with an old friend, I was blessed by a meaningful reconnection with a woman who has been dear to me for over twenty years. If any of my plans had gone according to my schedule, I would have missed out on precious conversation, laughter and kinship.
Did the day go how I planned it?
Did it go even better?
Was I ever in control of my day? Am I ever in control of my life?
But God, who knows my needs more than I do, who understands what’s best for my soul, is always in control, and He never ever hacks me, closes down, rejects my card or is unavailable. He is always free to chat, eager to hear how I’m doing, and full of glorious plans for me, plans I could never orchestrate on my own.
And He feels exactly the same way about you.
The Sprit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along. 1 Cor 2:10 MSG
Have you seen God intervening in your schedule this past week to make things better than you could have? Share with me below, I’d love to hear how.
“Do you have “Shake It Up Baby?” a guy asked me one day when I was working my high school job at a record store.
Yup, I said record store. So, you know this story is a major throwback. I didn’t know of a song, “Shake It Up Baby”, but I’m a huge Beatles fan and had just seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which was topping the box office. I did some quick calculating in my head (my favorite kind, the kind without numbers) and suggested perhaps he was looking for “Twist and Shout”.
“By the Beatles.”
“The one in Ferris Bueller.”
“Right. Right.” He nodded. “Shake it Up Baby.”
When was the last time you shook things up?
Because when you do, there are always some bubbles.
I’m a routine girl. I run in the morning when the air is cool and crisp and my mind can wander through the day’s events. After my run I dig into my writing. But yesterday after dropping my kids off at school, fully clad in workout clothes, I delayed my run and started writing instead. It was one of those writing sessions where I was focused and in tune and words flowed. They’re not all like that, I promise. But yesterday’s was. Fizz.
Due to a series of late nights I’m way behind on sleep, and I’m a girl who needs her sleep. So in the middle of the day I took an hour-long nap. Ahhhh. Crazy, for me, and with my list of to-do’s it felt irresponsible. But I woke rested and sane, and less grumpy. As a result of being more alert, the remainder of my day was more productive. Foam.
With four kids, part of my day, usually involves a grocery run. We are always out of something. I’d made a list the night before, had it in my purse and didn’t go. Instead, after school I took the kids to the farmer’s market. They ran around the straw maze and ate apples fresh from the orchard while I grabbed the necessities. We got what we needed and it was way more fun. Bubble.
My husband and I try to find a way to “date” every weekend. Sometimes that means going out to dinner. Sometimes our date consists of sitting by the fire chatting while the kids watch a movie in the next room. But between travel and soccer tournaments our weekends have been packed. So last night, Thursday, we had a date. We ate delicious fig and prosciutto pasta with brown butter sauce from the market on our porch and talked and laughed and shared. It was lovely. And it was on a school night. Carbonate.
Maybe you’re the opposite. Maybe you never have a list or a plan or a schedule. And you’re reading along wondering what’s so shaken about any of those occurrences. What if for one day, just one, you made a list before going to the grocery and planned out how you were going to use your day? For you, that might be the shake up you need. Stir.
None of those things are radical, but the small changes to my everyday routine refreshed and revived me. Don’t get me wrong. Routine is how I make things work. I can’t skip my runs and the grocery every day. I can’t take naps everyday and have dates on every school night. Our family unit would start to unravel. But every once in a while, it’s exactly what I need to see things through fresh eyes.
What about you? Have you shaken things up lately?
Stronger abs, learn a foreign language, the perfect hair do, teach your child to read, learn to juggle, reduce your stress, you name it… There are countless articles, books and blogs that will teach you how to do all of this and more in just ten minutes a day. In just six hundred seconds you can accomplish great feats. The only problem? If I take ten minutes a day to do crunches, listen to podcasts in French, flat iron my hair (who am I kidding, that would take a good 45 minutes) throw balls in the air, etc. I start running out of time to have conversations with my mom, pick my kids up from school, go to yoga, read my Bible, make dinner, kiss my husband, do laundry, work on my novel – the things I want to do and the things I need to do each day.
So how do we use our time best? There is so much in life I’d like to accomplish ranging from having organized closets and baking more chocolate chip cookies to attending Bible study and volunteering my time. There is no magical formula for how I allocate twenty-four hours each day, and no one to hold me accountable for each and ever minute. Is there?
Sometimes I feel pulled in a zillion directions.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “good is the enemy of best?”
It’s true. It is fun decorating for VBS and the windows in my house look so sparkly when I wash them and I feel stronger when I lift weights and my skin feels smoother when I give myself a facial and I can’t wait to read the next chapter of Eleanor and Park and, and, and... But are these things the best use of my time?
I’m not saying they are or they aren’t, because sometimes trivial things are critical and sometimes important things are meaningless. Who has God called you to be? What does He have in store for you today? Have you asked Him?
The thing that absolutely, positively has to happen for me each day is spending time in the morning with God. I read Matthew 19 yesterday. Verse 14 is about having a heart like children to enter God’s kingdom. God worked that in my brain and in my heart, about how important my kids are, which I knew, which I know, but today He really rubbed that into my very fabric.
I have a new novel that needs promoting, a tour that needs more dates booked, a hamper full of laundry and dozens of emails I need to return. But the absolute best use of my time was spent following God's nudge, and spending time with my kids. I watched The Princess Diaries with my daughters. I’ve seen it before and read the book. But my boys, who would never watch this, weren’t at home, and school starts soon, and we needed some snuggle on the couch girl time. As the new school year is lurking we were able to talk about the cool kids and the mean girls and people who like you just because you’re … fill in the blank. We talked about how the most important person for each of us to be is the person God made us to be. We recited the Eleanor Roosevelt quote over and over.
Today I was supposed to walk with a friend. I love her. She’s strong and inspiring and a great listener and makes me think. I was looking forward to spending ten times six minutes of my day picking her brain and pouring out mine while getting some exercise. But she had to cancel, and I ended up going to the park by myself. It was eerily cool for August, a storm was rolling in, but hadn’t hit quite yet. I ran faster than usual, invigorated by the wind, and listened to “Oceans” by Hillsong United over and over again begging God to give me ‘trust without borders’, spending time immersed 'in the presence of my Savior.’
It’s good to be intentional about our time. Like I said earlier, there are things I need and want to get done every day. But what if instead of filling every single ten-minute block of time, we spent some time letting God do His thing? Letting Him work ten minute miracles in our lives?
What can you do in just ten minutes? Better question, what can God do in just ten minutes? What is God urging you to put on your to-do list today and what is He urging you to delete from your calendar?
What are you waiting for?
Summer is fantastic! But August always brings a flurry of back to schoolness. This means lists of things to do to get ready and lists of uncertainties as you wait to see…. if you made the team? Who your roommates will be? What dorm you're in? For someone to call/text/email you back? If you got the scholarship? If you got the job to help you pay for school? Maybe you're just waiting for a parking place or to get to the front of line at Chipotle and finally place your order as your stomach grumbles. But you might be waiting to see If you’ll be asked to homecoming. If you’ll make call backs for the audition. Are you waiting to see if you got Dr. Palumbo for Biology? For the movie you’ve been itching to see to come out on DVD? If your locker will be anywhere near your bff’s or at least near your classes? Maybe you’re waiting for test results or x-rays back from a doctor or waiting to hear if the seller accepted your offer.
There’s big stuff we wait for and small stuff we wait for, but it seems we end up spending way too much of our lives waiting. So, what to do when we find ourselves in the dreaded Waiting Place? In Oh The Places You’ll Go, Dr. Seuss describes it as this:
Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No….
We sit around and wait and worry about the out comes. But Dr. Seuss tells us, "That's not for you!" And so does Jesus.
Do not be anxious about tomorrow. Matthew 6:34
What if while we’re waiting, we make a pact, you and I? What if we make a pact to be productive during our waiting?
Waiting to see if you got the job? How about you spend some time on Linked In writing endorsements for others you’ve been encouraged by, Google and then read some articles about the job you’re seeking and learn more about the field. Waiting for your nails to dry, or to board the plane or for the person you’re picking up to come out of the building? Grab a great book you’ve been meaning to read. Keep it with you at all times, and when those boring pauses occur, immerse yourself in words and story. Who knows, you might learn something new. Waiting to see if you made it? How about working on your skills – dribbling, drawing, playing octaves, rehearsing to get better at your talent no matter what the reply is to your most recent try out, submission or audition.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Phil 4:6
Let’s promise each other we’ll pray about it, pray for peace, for God to have His almighty hand in the outcome. Let’s praise God for the hallway while we’re waiting for Him to open the next door.
I L-O-V-E this song by John Waller, “While I’m Waiting”.
Next, know that whatever you’re waiting for God already knows the answer, and He’s planned it for your good.
If He already knows, why do we have to wait? If He already knows then can’t we play first chair, get the job, always be healthy, on time and be surrounded by our best friends all of the time? I don’t know about that. Because I don’t know if moving (or any other change in your life, any outcome you’re waiting for) will introduce you to your new best friend or future husband, or teach you something to help you later on, or strengthen your sibling or something else grand all together. But God knows. And He’s got your back.
I have it all planned out--plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. Jeremiah 29:11
If He’s got it all planned out, there really is no reason to worry. So, how are you going to get out of the Waiting Place today?
When I was on my high school’s dance team, our motto was “Teamwork Makes It Happen”. Not very catchy, but there’s a lot of truth in that phrase. On dance team it wasn’t about an individual’s abilities, it was about dancing in sync, together. The perfect example was the kick line. Everyone’s kicks had to be the exact same height, so it appeared as if one giant leg was going up then down, while the other giant leg followed suit. Shorter girls had to stand on tiptoes to make their legs reach. Uber flexible girls actually had to lower their kicks to line up with the team.
Have you ever been part of a softball team? A play? A fundraiser? If so, you know the risks of putting yourself out there. You’ve had to rely on others. You understand the challenges of working collectively for a common good.
I haven’t been in a kick line for a looooonnnnggg time, but this past fall I was invited to be on a team to launch a new line of young adult fiction books. By now, you’ve probably heard me chat about Playlist Fiction. Ever wonder what authors talk about when they get together? Everything, really. But recently, one of the other Playlist authors, Laura Kurk, and I were chatting about the excitement and uncertainty of banding together to create something new. Here’s an inside peek at our conversation.
LS: I remember when our agent suggested forming a team of authors to launch a new line, to include your novels, my novels, Jennifer Murgia’s latest title, Stephanie Morrill’s newest book and debut author Rajdeep Paulus. I know what was going through my mind. What was on yours?
LK: Writing is a lonely profession. It takes physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries to maintain the integrity of our thoughts and ideas while we work.
I’m usually okay with this, being an introverted soul. But sometimes I feel too alone. I’ve dreamed of having a team of like-minded people who would offer support, guidance, and friendship. I said yes, without hesitation.
LS: Me too. It was an incredible idea to have a support network within the solitude, to not have to go these books alone. But there was still a major unknown. None of us had worked together. All of our writing styles were a little different. What were your concerns?
LK: The same all students have when they hear the dreaded words, “Group Project.” I was always the kid who took on the biggest part—because I wanted the project done right. But, it turns out, I think we were all the kids who took on the majority of the work for group projects.
LS: So, was that because we were overachievers, or because we enjoyed writing essays?
LK: Ha! Both. But the great thing about our team is we overachieve for each other. I’ve never really been on a team, so this is my first experience with seeing other people sacrifice their time and talent for each other. It’s overwhelming. Makes me wish I had played t-ball or something.
LS: T-ball was not my best experience. Let’s just say I sat the bench. A writing team uniform fits me way better. I think the two major factors that have led to the success of our team are communication and a common desire to succeed as a whole.
LK: We’ve avoided any of us carrying all the weight.
L S: Right. We share it. Our communication from the get-go was key. Remember the dozens of emails about expectations and content for the line?
LK: Back and forth, plus the conference calls. We agreed on a mission and a feel. We agreed our books would be unique, real, and match the rhythm of our readers’ lives. We incorporated that into everything from our plot lines to the Playlist Fiction website.
LS: And once we identified ourselves, we all took responsibilities based on our strengths. You developed our Twitter account. Jennifer worked with the designer. Rajdeep created the count down graphics and manages our Playlist fan mail. And what would we do without Stephanie who writes the newsletter and runs all the spreadsheets? It was remarkable to watch everyone play to her areas of expertise. We had all poured ourselves into our novels. We longed for them to reach readers who would identify with our characters and gravitate to our plots. The more readers engaged with the Playlist Fiction brand overall, the more opportunities we had to touch those readers.
LK: We were all invested.
LS: All for one and one for all. What hopes did you have for the team?
LK: I hoped I would develop relationships with people who shared my faith and my goals. I hoped for friends who would understand why writing is spiritually fulfilling for me, and who would hold me accountable with the words I choose. We’re not just a team. We’ve found friendship, validation, accountability, a louder voice, a bigger splash. We’re even prayer warriors.
LS: It’s awesome isn’t it? It’s powerful for me to see how much stronger we are together than alone. But when you gain something, you tend to give something up. What did you sacrifice to be part of a team verses publishing your novels under a solo contract?
LK: I think there’s a misconception that publishing solo with an existing publisher means you can sit back. Authors have to market themselves constantly, so the team has been a blessing. The sacrifices I’ve made have been easy. The amount of work we’ve done to build recognition for this debut line of fiction has been mind-blowing. We’ve worked a lot of late nights.
LS: Which resulted in a lot of late night e-mails. Some of them made me laugh so hard I almost peed my pants. Others brought tears to my eyes. We swapped lyrics from everything from the Mickey Mouse Club House theme song to old Depeche Mode tunes. We shared stories about our siblings and children, admitted indulgences and weaknesses. We became good friends.
LK: I love how we support one another. Often you see writers who grab attention, because attention translates into sales. Our team members are more concerned with making sure we all find success. We work like this because we believe in the message of hope and healing we each have for our audience. We write for young adults. We found each other because we all felt there was a lack of hopeful fiction for teens.
LS: I’m praying we’ll provide some of that much needed hope.
LK: I believe we are. But despite the encouragement from one another, it does take maturity to keep this team in tact.
LS: Definitely. All teams do. None of us can be scorekeepers. We can’t say, “she did this and she didn’t do that while I did this.” Just like soccer player can’t say, “I scored and she missed my pass and she should have stolen that ball.” Each author has the integrity to give our team her personal best. As a team, we respect and honor the time and way we each achieve this. On any given day one author could be promoting the line, while another is dealing with family issues and yet another is frantically editing her next novel. The following week those roles can and do switch. What’s beautiful is how much we lean on one another, draw from one another, learn from one another. Like you said at the beginning, writing can be a lonely endeavor. But our team offers a community to share the writing journey.
Jesus didn’t leave one disciple high and dry to share the gospel. He introduced them to one another, had them dine together, travel together, so when it was time for Him to ascend, the disciples were prepared to work as a team. I believe God brought our Playlist Fiction team together to share the stories He’s put in our hearts.
Are you part of a team? How do you think God’s equipped you to be an important team member?
Long before Katniss and Peeta, the question has lingered--can boys and girls be friends without romance?
When was the first time you asked yourself if men and women can be just friends?
Today's guest post by author, Renee Fisher, dives into this question as she talks about kissing, dating, break ups and her latest book, Loves Me Not. She first asked herself that question when she was in the seventh grade. She writes:
My friends and I were wasting time in gym talking about more important matters: boys. After listening to my friends, I was horrified to find out that (shocker)--I was the only girl who hadn’t kissed a boy yet. I instantly felt this pressure I’ve never felt before. Maybe it was just me, or the way I was raised--but I wasn’t quite comfortable with having boy friends. And I certainly wasn’t going to kiss a boy who wasn’t my friend.
I wonder if I’m the only one who’s ever felt that way.
In a hook-up-or-go-home culture, it’s tough for me to justify skipping the “let’s be friends” part while jumping into a serious relationship. That probably also explains why I was single for so long.
I tell people often that I was single for over a decade until I found my prince. Personally, he was worth the wait--but how do you find friendships before marriage? Can men and women be just friends? I recently wrote an eBook entitled Loves Me Not to help answer these questions.
Questions like these are very important to ask before marriage, BUT before I attempt to answer these questions, I want to talk about friendship—more importantly, what godly friendship— looks like. First you need to know what you're looking for in a friend. Later you can evolve the right friendship into the right romance.
+ Friends don’t gossip about each other (Proverbs 26:20).
+ Friends are gentle instead of harsh or angry at each other (Proverbs 15:1).
+ Friends words bring healing (Proverbs 12:18).
+ Friends should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19).
+ Friends don’t destroy each other (Proverbs 11:9).
+ Friends are understanding and even-tempered with each other (Proverbs 17:2).
+ Friends pray for each other (Job 42:10, James 5:16).
+ Friends spur each other forward (Hebrews 10:24).
+ Friends encourage each other daily (see Hebrews 3:13).
+ Friends share in each other’s troubles and joys (see Romans 12:15).
+ Friends are reliable and stick closer than a brother or sister (Proverbs 18:24).
After reading the list, I hope you know and understand more about what a true friend does and doesn’t look like (whether they're a boy or a girl).
Nowhere on this list does it say you can or can’t be friends with the opposite sex.
Nowhere does the Bible say, “Thou shall or shall not be friends with the opposite sex.” Praise God, right? But it does say to choose your friends “carefully” (Proverbs 12:26, NIV).
Maybe after reading the list you’ll know more about your motives and the intentions of your friends. I also hope to instill a deeper sense of appreciation for what it takes to be friends first before jumping into a relationship. What better way to discern if a relationship will be a good fit if you know what good of a friend he or she is?
I believe it is possible for guys and girls to be just friends.
The how is between you, God, and the other person.
What’s the verdict? Do you believe men and women can be friends? If you’d like to read more from Loves Me Not, I’d love to share more with you. If you or anyone you know is currently experiencing a broken relationship or a breakup--I encourage you to pick up the eBook for only $2.99.
Renee Fisher, the Devotional Diva®, is the spirited speaker and author of Faithbook of Jesus, Not Another Dating Book, Forgiving Others, Forgiving Me, and Loves Me Not. A graduate of Biola University, Renee’s mission in life is to “spur others forward” (Hebrews 10:24) using the lessons learned from her own trials to encourage others in their walk with God. She and her husband, Marc, live in California with their dog, Star. Learn more about Renee at www.devotionaldiva.com.
When I’m in yoga class standing on one leg with my arms above my head and I wobble, I hear my instructor call out “reset”.
What does reset mean? Merriam Webster defines it as to set again or anew.
We are now almost four weeks into 2013. How’s it going so far? We love to set goals and make resolutions and plan out calendars and workouts and vacations and to do lists when January 1st rolls round. But frequently we set goals and make plans that are out of our reach, below our capabilities or just plain silly. Sometimes we set awesome goals, but find excuses not to attain them. Sometimes life happens and our goals must change.
Goals are important, critical to growth, actually. They’re how we get from here to there, but they are also fluid and need constant revising.
For me, I’ll be celebrating Christmas on Ground Hog’s Day. That wasn’t the plan. It didn’t make any of my lists, but due to family medical emergencies, February is when we can all get together.
I am thrilled, giddy, honored, humbled and blessed to announce the first two books in my latest series will release in April. I didn’t know have this information on January 1. This exciting news changes all of my writing goals for the year. I need to focus on the release of those two titles. I need to shelve rewriting a novel I was working on and instead start writing the third book in this series. All fab stuff, but...
How about you? Has anything happened to change your plans? If you’re an athlete an injury could switch you from developing new skills to rehabilitating. If your family is moving, you might change your focus from organizing your closet to how to decorate your new bedroom. Those 25 sit ups a day might be easier than you thought, or it might turn out it was taking on more than you could handle to assume you could practice your electric keyboard a whole hour every day.
How are you doing? Are you off balance? Have the wrong foot forward? Did something arise in your life that changes everything? Is something easier than you thought challenging you to push yourself harder? Are you facing the wrong direction? Or are you further ahead than planned? It's okay to change your original plan.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!
I’d love to hear how you’re pushing the reset button and starting anew.
I check my phone approximately 25 times a day. Really? I knew it was high, so I ran an experiment – a very sophisticated experiment. I counted how many times I checked my phone on Monday and Tuesday and again on Wednesday and found the average.
What am I checking for?
A love text from my boyfriend (aka husband)?
An email from my agent saying Paramount wants to make a movie from one of my books?
Actually, my first data hit every morning is turning off my alarm clock. The second is checking the emails that accumulated overnight. In between showering, eating a bowl of granola and stacking, I’ll also check the weather (chilly and sunny today with a high of 53 degrees) and my calendar to see what I’m supposed to be doing today. I’ll hit my Bible app for my morning prayer time and play music on my run. I snapped pics of pumpkins and costumes this week, and texted them to friends.
But honestly, sometimes I’m on my phone just to kill time. I’ll check emails or Facebook or Twitter, because I’m standing in line or waiting on hold or in the midst of a socially awkward moment when I’m standing alone at a party or a soccer game. The phone acts as an excuse for me to be standing there by myself.
What would happen if instead of habitually checking my phone, I absorbed my surroundings? Struck up conversation with a stranger? Let my imagination play? What if I prayed?
The Casting Crowns song, “What if His People Prayed?” runs through my head as I write this.
That would be really cool - if each time I checked my phone I prayed? And sometimes I could pray instead of ever sliding the bar on my phone, others I could pray over the person who texted or called or emailed or I could pray for whatever’s on my mind. What if I added twenty-five moments of prayer each day?
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24
Pretty powerful, huh? Whatever we ask in prayer, if we believe we’ll receive it, it will be ours! And if I prayed 25 more times a day? And if everyone reading this post prayed 25 more times a day? The possibilities are endless.
What do you check on your phone the most? How often do you check your phone in a day?
I’m a planner, an organizer, and a calendar maker extraordinaire. I have four kids, which means a fun-filled crazy, busy life. If I don’t stay on top of all the practices, assignments, to-dos and errands they crawl on top of me, and smother me.
However, despite all of my color-coding and lists, I have to remember that I am not the one in control.
On a family trip to Italy we needed to check out of our apartment in Florence prior to the proprietor’s arrival to make our train to Venice on time. We dutifully took out our trash, stripped our sheets and dropped our keys in the drop box.
We rolled our suitcases thumpety-thump down the cobblestone streets to the metro, took the metro to the train station and boarded our train, surprised to see an entire class of Italian school children filling our car and our seats. I spoke with a lovely teacher whose English was even worse than my Italian. We exchanged tickets, but couldn’t figure out how we all had the same seat assignments. Together we searched for a conductor, who just as the train began its departure told us to sit tight. We’d sort it all out en route.
We situated ourselves in corners and nooks, plugged in our ear buds and flipped through books until about an hour into the ride when the conductor came to punch the tickets I’d ordered months ago on the Eurorail website.
“Ecco.” Here you go. I presented ours to him, proud of my Italian expression.
He shook his head with a sneer. “These are for tomorrow.”
“Today is Wednesday. These are for Thursday.” He said briskly, not feeling my panic, my pain, and my well-executed plans in a tangle.
“How- how could that be?” The words tumbled from my mouth. My brain churned. He pointed to the date on the tickets, which were indeed for the next day. I grabbed my travel file and frantically flipped through the itineraries. I turned to my hubby and gasped in a stressed whisper, “How did this happen? I don’t understand? Where will we stay in Venice tonight? We’ll be a day early.”
“You cannot continue to Venice.” The conductor’s voice was freakishly flat for an Italian.
Silently he pulled out his calculator and typed in seemingly hundreds of numbers. Eventually he turned the display to me. “This is your fine for riding the train without a proper ticket. You must depart at the next stop - Bologna. You may use your ticket tomorrow to get you from Bologna to Venice.”
A lengthy list of questions from me to the train worker didn’t clear up any of my concerns. The fine was enormous. We knew no one in Bologna and had no hotel booked for our four children, my mom and ourselves. We’d forfeited a prepaid night in Florence. Not to mention the blow to my ego that I’d majorly botched our travel plans and let my family down!
My stomach was like a pulverized pizza. My face hotter than the Tuscan sun. My hands shook like our train car on rickety tracks.
We paid our fine, gathered our group and got off the train in Bologna, the beautiful city of Bologna, home of robust spaghetti alla Bolognese, one of the oldest Universities in Europe, an active political community and ancient basilicas.
In Bologna we stayed in the nicest hotel of our trip, complete with luxury air conditioning and an all you could eat breakfast buffet piled high with Italian pastries and made to order cappuccino. We witnessed a heated protest by impassioned university students, noshed on zesty pizza margarita (for a fraction of a price of what we paid for it in Florence) strolled through the historic university and visited the crowning jewel, San Luca.
San Luca, named for Saint Luke, as in the gospel writer, sits at the top of approximately 300 steps covered by romantic porticoes supported by 666 arches and overlooks the lush city of Bologna from its hilltop perch.
On a 70 degree, sunny day breathing in the architecture, gazing at the sapphire blue sky, marveling at history dating back to the gospels, intoxicated by a strong spiritual presence and surrounded by the people I love most in the world, I couldn’t imagine anything lovelier. Then, two young boys pulled out their violins and played an impromptu hauntingly beautiful concert in the grassy area outside the church, providing the soundtrack for my moment.
My planner said I should be in Florence that day. I thought I was supposed to be in Venice that day. But God knew, there was no place on earth better for me on that day than in Bologna.
I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. Jeremiah 29:11 MSG
Tell me below - where are you planning to go this week? Where will you let God take you if only you let Him?
Where did you go today? What did you wear? What did you take with you?
I started the day with yoga. Wearing my comfy gray yoga pants and stretchy gray and black tank, I grabbed my mat, my rec center ID, my hot pink water bottle and slid on my flip-flops.
After a trip home for a quickie shower and a wardrobe change into a black sundress and a zillion bracelets, my next stop was a writing session at my local coffee shop, Kofenya. I packed my MacBook, extension cord, cell phone, wallet and of course my coffee cup for the excursion.
This afternoon I’ll head to the pool. I’ll need to slip on a bikini, pack my sunscreen (both spray and Neutrogena face formula), a towel, my Kindle, my U2 cap (to prevent sun damage), my straw cup full of H20 and a snack.
We, as a society, carry around so much stuff. And it’s even more fun when we get to carry it around in cute bags!
But Jesus challenges us to do something different. He sent the disciples out on their life’s work with a walking stick and the clothes and shoes they already had on.
These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Mark 6: 8-9 NIV
I’ve changed shoes three times today! IS His call to all of us exactly the same?
Not exactly, but kind of.
He might call you to teach or nurture or share a smile. You might be called to sing or paint or score or hug or listen or lead or follow.
He has a plan for you.
But do we need all this baggage we carry around to live out this plan?
Jesus still calls us to spread His word – every day, everywhere we go – whether that’s shopping or hanging out with friends or going to class or working out with our team or working or spending time with family. He calls us to be His light. So what do we need to bring?
That’s the easy one.
If I forget my sunscreen, I can sit under the shelter when I’m not in the pool. If I wear a normal t-shirt to yoga I’ll still be able to do my best downward dog. If I forget my travel cup at the coffee shop, they have mugs.
So where are you going today? Where has Jesus called you to go?
I’d love to hear about it. And don’t forget to pack the most important thing – Jesus.
Laura L. Smith