I have now been retired for seven weeks. When I entered retirement, my plan was to immediately establish a routine to accomplish what I sensed the Lord was leading me to do: write daily to make progress on my neglected novel and blog more frequently.
For 41 years, I have lived by a clock, a calendar and a checklist. My days are scheduled and I thrive on making detailed checklists. Yet week-after-week, no matter how much I tried, I just could not get a schedule to come together. I had promised to use my now-free-time and writing gifts to minister to others, but I couldn’t even organize my thoughts enough to put them into words. I felt like I was letting God down.
Despite failing at my retirement plans, I quickly transitioned to not waking up to the alarm clock and spending unhurried mornings on my porch. I piddled in the yard, thinned out my closet and organized cabinets. I helped my family with home projects. I spent time with friends. I prepared to teach a Bible study. I slowed down…almost to a stop. My days pretty much consisted of doing whatever came next, which left me feeling unorganized and a poor steward of my time.
Then last week, I had an “ah ha” moment. As I was lamenting in my prayer time about not being able to get into a routine, I remembered how I feel when something interferes with my plan: I feel inconvenienced and, most often, irritated. So…if I don’t have a schedule, I won’t be inconvenienced. If I don’t have a plan, then I am available to do whatever the Lord would have me do, whenever He would have me do it.
When I shared my ah-ha with my mentor, her reply was “it’s about time you gave the Holy Spirit free reign of your life.” Well, ouch! I quickly countered that I had surrendered my plans to the Lord years ago. She chuckled, but said nothing. As always, she was right. Even though my passion and excitement about writing full-time as a ministry is a good thing, I had taken it upon myself to make the plan for success and put it into effect. Plans are good, and necessary, but my plans were based on what I learned in my writing workshops, not in daily surrender and prayer. I was striving for success, with the right motive, but in the wrong way.
I only thought I had been wasting my time, when all along the Lord had been teaching me what it means to be available:
Available to sit on the porch and experience His creation. To feel the warmth of the morning sun on my face. To listen to the vibrating chirp of the cicadas. To watch squirrels scurry in the trees and a butterfly light on a hydrangea bloom. To inhale the pungent scent of rain-soaked soil. To be un-rushed and to breathe in the fresh summer air. To be renewed.
Available to spend time with friends and family that are in my circle of influence. To enjoy long, laughter-filled lunches with longtime friends. To enjoy spur-of-the-moment porch visits and mid-day phone conversations. To welcome spontaneous visits from out-of-town friends. To spend time helping my family.
Available to search for (and find!) a childhood friend who has long been on my mind. To enjoy the blessings of reconnection.
Available to write a note of encouragement. To pray for whomever the Lord brings to mind. To slow down enough to see things He wants me to see. To listen to His promptings. To do what He would have me do.
So I have turned off my clock, turned over my calendar, and written one thing on my checklist: available.
We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. ~ Proverbs 16:9