I have a planner problem.
There, I said it. I have spent an inordinate amount of money on planners and calendars and goal-setting workbooks and if I see a prettier one even just a few months after my original purchase, I gotta have it. I’m addicted to organizing my schedule and goals and a nut for the fresh-planner, check-another-box high.
I don’t think I am alone in this. The word “intentional” is thrown around like confetti these days as women are encouraged to “design the life you love” and take charge of their days with hyper-focused habits that make both the most of our minutes and the most room for production. And I have been eating all of this up for the bulk of my adult life, buying in to the potential for greatness I possessed if I could just dream it up and make it happen, multitask like a champ, and not waste one minute of margin in my day. The sky was the limit even for a busy mom like me, if I was just intentional, of course.
The phone call came at 4:30 p.m. on a Monday. The Child Protective Services office, a young woman we knew—someone who has been through so much that she didn’t choose—and a big ask for help. We were not certified foster parents and did not have plans to enter the foster system. But in moments like this, when there isn’t time to weigh pros and cons, to overthink about all the logistics of adding another child to your family for an undetermined amount of time, or to ask questions of all that will be expected of you in the days, weeks, and months to come, you simply respond with the heart of a mother.
It was the only possible answer.
Just a few hours, an emergency background check, and a quick safety inspection from the social worker later, we had a four day old baby sleeping in my kids’ old bassinet next to our bed. After three months and a mountain of paperwork and appointments and home visits and a schedule I never once anticipated until I was living it, the baby still sleeps there. God knows the future, but the present landed this little one unexpectedly in our master bedroom.
Between that phone call and this moment, as I look down at a precious, growing baby, I am overwhelmed at one thought: none of this was intentional. The me that I know best would have wanted to calculate this decision, weigh our abilities as a family to take on such an enormous responsibility, pray for discernment and step in to such a big change slowly and confidently, with my certainty in the next step based on a completed to-do list; evidence of our readiness. The me that is living this has no list, no planner, no formula, and no idea what even happens next week.
All I know is that today, there is a baby sleeping soundly in our bedroom. And because God so clearly brought us to this—intersecting our lives with someone who was once a stranger and now is a woman we think about and pray for every single day—He must have thought we were ready. Why have I always been so much more confident in my checked-boxes to prove that?
When I look back over my life, and particularly over my journey as mom, I have always wanted to be intentional, and my stack of planners will attest to that. I like my days laid out, my schedules productive, and my to-do lists clearly displayed. Being intentional with all of that gives me an illusion of control that feels absolutely necessary as a mom: do this and that won’t happen; don’t do that and this will happen. With the right plan, all can and will be well. I like those kinds of intentions.
But over and over again, I learn in new ways that life is not always very intentional.
Because we meet people who need help, and rarely is helping someone not an interruption to our lives. Or we get unexpected news, the kind of news that demands a change to our plans and our budgets. From the minor inconveniences like the flat tire or the dead cell phone battery, to the major life shake ups like sickness and life-altering diagnoses, I think if we are real honest with ourselves we would say that life is not predictable for any of us. And that might be exactly why we buy all the books with the message that the future is up to us, and spend so much time, effort, and planning trying to make it seem so. We crave the predictability and control of the future that deep down we know we cannot have.
From the moment we got that phone call, and in all the anxious, stressful, and unpredictable days since then, it has not been my best laid plans or good intentions that have come through for me. In fact, it hasn’t been me at all. It was Kelly who dropped what she was doing to go to Wal-Mart for formula and diapers and hopped in the car to drive 2 hours with me to pick up this sweet baby. It was Annie who had baby clothes and rockers and blankets at my house before we even got home. It was Aubree who showed up with a whole bunch of goodies from Costco and Rachel who brought a Maple Pecan latte and spaghetti sauce for dinner. It was Emily who sent coffee gift cards and Kristin who sent clothes and my dear writing sisters from Coffee + Crumbs who combined forces and filled a care package with all the things. And every single day, it’s been surrender and prayer getting my anxious heart through, not a check-list of things to accomplish. (There are four children under six in this house. Let’s be honest, I am not getting anything accomplished).
I’m not throwing out all the planners, or calling all the goals and dreams a wash. I am, however, starting to shift my priorities. Instead of working to live my most intentional life, examining every moment of my day for productivity and preaching to myself the popular, and somewhat misleading, message that only I control my destiny, maybe I ought to focus even more on filling my life with all the things I will need when the very unintentional happens—my friends and my faith—because it will. Whether I always acknowledge it or not, the way I live today is preparing me for everything I do not even know will happen tomorrow. But I do know this for sure: there is not a plan in the world that can replace the person who will show up with coffee and prayer, and no goal more important than learning to trust the grandness of the One for whom nothing is unintentional.