I am a planner.
This is both a confession and a statement of fact. While the Lord continues to work in me about being more laid-back about last minute changes to "my plans" and releasing control on things -- turning it over to Him -- the concept of planning (ahead) actually came up this week with our daughter, J, who is like my polar opposite when it comes to the planning department of life.
For her birthday last week, we bought her a new bike. She'd long since outgrown the one she got when she was three and had started borrowing a neighbor's bike more and more often. She even taught herself (she likes to teach herself things) how to ride with two wheels and no training wheels.
She absolutely loves her new bike. C helped her pick it out at a local bike shop and I think it couldn't be more perfect for our little wanna-be surfer girl flower-child. It's girlie and tropical and unique and just fun. But rugged for a girl who can beat up her brothers if the need arises.
Anyway, she's spent a lot of time this week just riding her bike in the street out front of our house getting better and better at it, racing her brothers and loving life. In fact, it's the only way I can get the girl to put shoes on because after a big fall on her friend's bike last week while wearing crocs and a dress, she's actually decided maybe pants and tennis shoes would be safer. For now. We'll see how long it lasts.
We have a set boundary area for all our kids when they're playing out front. There's a stop sign at one end of the street and a particular street light down at the other end. They are allowed -- without special permission to go exploring elsewhere -- to ride around, to play with neighborhood friends and to generally stay in that specific area so it's easier for me to keep track of them or call them in for school time and meals, etc.
The second day J had her new bike, I kept watching out the window as she would pass the stop sign by a good 15-20 feet before curving around to head towards the other end. Maybe it sounds nit picky, but being that it was just day two, I wanted to be very clear about where her boundaries are so that she didn't continue to push beyond them before we were all ready for that.
I went outside and called her over and reminded her of the boundaries. I said, "You need to turn before the stop sign, okay?"
She said, "I know that's the boundary, but when I try to stop at the stop sign, my bike keeps on going past it."
I said, "Well, now that you know where it is, you need to plan ahead and start stopping before the stop sign."
To me, who's been driving for more than 22 years and riding bikes even longer, this seemed completely obvious and normal.
She said, "Plan ahead? I don't even know what that means!"
Now, I've mentioned before that J is a smart child (like all our children are, of course), so it's not that she didn't know what the words plan and ahead meant. Her vocabulary is strong enough. But things started adding up in my head about how long it took to potty train her because she was always playing too long and wouldn't always make it to the toilet until she could already feel the trickling down her ankles. And how when we'd lay out clothing the night before for an early morning trip, she was reluctant to make a decision about clothes until morning when she'd know "how she felt." It is just not in her nature to plan things.
Is this what it looks like to completely trust God and parents and our own flexibility in life? To not understand the concept of planning ahead for things is just as foreign to me as, I don't know, some Bantu language (ha! just learned about this concept myself when helping S with a crossword puzzle and C ended up looking it up).
Of course, for safety purposes (and future driving needs), I explained what I meant by planning ahead for a stop/slow-down point, so she could safely turn inside the boundary and not past it. But after walking back inside, the whole situation just kept mulling in my head over and over.
I don't believe that we should not plan ahead. A lot of our Christian faith is about planning ahead when I really sit and think about it. We're planning for eternal life in heaven, we're planning out ways to answer questions about our own testimony in order to be a light for others (or at least our Pastor told us last weekend that we should be thinking about that so we're prepared), we're planning ahead as we prepare our hearts for worship on Sundays, and I plan ahead to read my verse of the day first in the morning before I get up or think about anything else (it doesn't always work, but that's the plan).
I think where I run into trouble as a planner, is when I become inflexible to new opportunities that arise in my day or my life -- opportunities for God to grow me and shape me into the person He wants me to be. I mean, when it comes down to it, He made me this way. But that shouldn't mean that's all I can be.
Finally, before finishing up this post, I took a write-break to go check up on some of the blogs I follow. I was surprised to find that even as I wrote about the idea of planning ahead, one of my favorite bloggers was also writing today about plans and trusting God to be with us under any circumstance. So I want to include a link to her blog here, just in case you want more reading material on this subject. If you're a planner like I am, you'll like to have as much information on the subject as you can get. Just so you're prepared for whatever comes next. :)