The Plan Was

The title of this post is my life anthem. I am certain. Always a plan with me. I love plans and thinking about plans. I even plan times for planning. It’s one of my favorite four letter words; I won’t share my others. And planning is a good thing. I plan meals and save money (mostly), I plan to pay bills (a necessary thing), I plan time to clean the house, I plan out my work schedule, I make plans to see friends and family; planning is good. But so often the word “was” finds its way into my plan. “Well, the plan was…” That is when I get irritated. The first two words would suffice as a life anthem, “The Plan”. That third creepy words does just that…creeps. Generally when I least expect it in an area of my life I would not imagine it wiggles its way into the hours of my life and changes everything. The plan was to finish graduate school, the plan was to get a job, the plan was to pay off that debt, the plan was to pray, the plan was to connect with my friend, the plan was to have a baby…
Today, the plan was to have a prayer retreat.
This plan was foiled only by me. Maybe God was involved as well, I don’t know for certain.  Today I felt a bit squirrely.  I couldn’t jump into a full-fledged prayer retreat from such busyness. And though most of the journeys I have into stillness and solitude do not afford much transition time, this time I have days to slow down, so I am taking it.  I threw off the guilty feeling of “doing it wrong” earlier than usual as was able to just let myself be. A spiritual practice in and of itself. Perfectionism is not the prettiest side of anyone unfortunate enough to carry its sickness. Myself included. Coincidentally, this past weekend the Sunday School teaching was about prayer, and specifically prayer retreats. Karen, our teacher for the morning and a fellow hyper-planner, said a wonderful thing that aided in setting me free to foil today’s plan, “The goal is not to make good use of our time, but to create space where God can meet us.” 
So, I began today be reading about St. Therese de Lisieaux. She was a nun who lived in France during the 1800s. She was particularly bent toward God; she became a Carmelite Sister when she was only 14 years old. Quite amazing. She died of an illnessat the age of 23 and has yet beautiful, deep writings on the spiritual life. I was reading her book on prayer. It was good stuff, but I wasn’t slowed down enough to be present to it. And I was very, very tired. I decided to eat a small breakfast and head to a yoga class near the town. I bought a three pack of classes to enjoy this for the week.
After an hour and a half of yoga in a small, beach shack-like building right along the coast I went to the local organic food store and picked up some snacks. But first I got myself a celery, carrot, parsley, kale, and spinach drink. (Those of you who know me well just said, Yep…that’s Kimberly…gross J).  I even saw one of the older men there from the yoga class and said hi. I felt like a local.
After this I went back to the hotel to make a protein shake and shower. After showering and before my nap time I got online to see if there were any retreat centers nearby. It was becoming clear to me that I was likely not going to be able to pray in this setting and have the retreat I was looking for. I need a space set apart for stillness and solitude.  There are so many things calling my name here that though I will be able to slow down, I feel I will constantly be distracted, or worse…completely uninspired by the room I am supposed to sit in all day and within which I am to have my retreat. Thankfully, I found a Jesuit Retreat Center just 22 miles away and they have space for me from Friday to Saturday! They are trying to get me a spiritual director for the two days. 
That came together wonderfully so I laid down for a nap. This deep and wonderful nap was unfortunately interrupted by a banging on my door at 3:00 in the afternoon followed by “housekeeping”.  Grr, I didn’t put the sign up. I got up to get some fresh towels with every intention of going back to sleep. But that didn’t happen. I saw the sun had come out so I got up and got ready and headed into town.
I spend the next hours looking around the shops and thoroughly enjoying myself. I even had a hot cross bun which was apparently a famous recipe according to the marker-on-cardboard sign in the front window. After this I went to find some mysterious antique store which never was found, but on my way I had the most interesting of experiences.  Sitting at a stoplight on coastal highway 1, I saw three women walking their dogs. They were walking across the crosswalk when all of a sudden I realized, there was only one dog…the other two women were walking sheep on their leashes. Yes, full grown, not recently shorn…sheep. One (of the sheep) did this little kick-up-off-the-curb-and-jump-up-t0-give-us-a-little-show-type-move. It was quite funny and so incredibly random. Mind you, we were in an area populated enough and with enough traffic to have a crosswalk…and they were walking sheep.  I must be in California.
Since I never found the antique shop I decided to walk along the windy, rocky coast and watch the storm blow in. What a great place to connect with God.  I watched the little birds play with the waves. As the waves would recede the birds would scurry down to eat whatever it was they were eating out of the sand. Then the foamy waters would roll in again and they would all chirp and scurry back so as not to be taken by the wave. The waters would recede and the birds would go eat in the sand until the next foamy waved arrived. I watched this little wave-dance go on endlessly while wondering if they suffered from short-term memory loss.  
Standing along these shores I was able to pray. I prayed for various things in and out of simply enjoying the grandeur and power of the landscape.  I was reminded of those suffering just across those waters in Japan…Lord, have mercy. Then I recited a little poem I wrote earlier that day:
                                The roar of the ocean
                                                The expanse of the sea;
                                Yet You, Holy One,
                                                Choose to dwell within me.
So, it’s a little rhyme-y and short, but it helped me connect with God.
Then I headed to Peet’s Coffee & Tea for the evening to read a book on writing by Anne Lamott called Bird by Bird. I happen to enjoy this writing thing and want to do more of it. Her book is great fun to read. I was joined by a woman named Molly. All the tables were full so we shared. Interestingly, as I was reading about writing she was actually writing a novel. Even when the place cleared out we still shared the table and chatted here and there. It was a nice time.
I came back to the hotel tonight to begin writing and meet up with Jeff and the other guys for a late dinner at the local diner. And that was pretty much my day. It wasn’t plan A, but it wasn’t really a plan B either; I suppose it wasn’t a plan at all. But it was great and I enjoyed God throughout the day so much.  So, I end with one of my favorite quotes so far from the book I am reading:
“I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have more fun while they are doing it.”
Goodnight J

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