I choreograph my life. On a fairly regular basis.
I project myself into the future and search out the clearest, most obvious path, a reasonable yet wonderful plan. This usually happens when I’ve met someone that is truly remarkable, or whose very existence seems quite a bit more significant than mine, while maintaining a life that is wholesome and regular. Or after I watch an inspiring movie about someone who makes a substantial difference in the world just by being herself – in the right place and right time, of course.
I focus on a goal. I identify all possible obstacles and prerequisites. I design solutions, map out the logistics, and draw a clear finish line. I mean, I’m serious here. This is a viable plan. (Sometimes, I even include a little something magical just for fun. Perhaps a sprinkle of fame or recognition. Or maybe just a little bitty economic boost that will make life just slightly more comfortable – but not so much that it goes to my head.)
True, at times, this is more of a dream than plan. But still, I rarely entertain anything outrageous or too big or showy or spectacular. Like being a real writer or Golden Apple teacher or thin and organized. Goodness no. But the picture I paint is simply divine.
I carefully prepare what may be the most convincing appeal ever. And, then, I go to God in humble, yet confident, prayer and present my portfolio. Surely, He will appreciate what I’ve done to make His Holy existence so much easier and reward me with a road map straight to my predetermined destination – perhaps even including the magic, just for being such a good girl.
I promise you, this has NEVER worked. At least not according to my plans. And sometimes, to be sure, I should be more careful about what I ask for. Enough said.
* * * * *
It was last April when I stumbled upon the great opportunity. A 2 ½ day writer’s retreat. As in, where real writers go to ponder the perfect word and craft the most intriguing story line. In July, when there is no school. Close to home. In a beautiful setting, with a published author to facilitate. And a little pricey.
Hmmm. I finally described it to Tim.
Tim: “Of course you should go. Why are you hesitating?”
Me: “You’re the best.”
Me (on the phone): “Registration is closed? Oh, rats. I’m first on the waiting list? Okay, bye.”
I was so disappointed and decided to talk to Him about it. (As if anything as insignificant as a weekend retreat was important enough to even bother Him. Once again, always the thoughtful, good girl.) And this time, I didn’t rehearse. I tried something so unfamiliar that I, well… I really wasn’t sure about this.
I simply gave it up to Him. Truly. Completely. I said “if it is in Your plan for me” with sincerity and conviction. I remained hopeful, so I kept the weekend open. But other than that, I left it alone. I didn’t beg or cajole. I didn’t badger Him with endless pleas and reminders. Really, I just gave it up to Him.
On Tuesday, I got the email that said that I had until Wednesday at noon to respond “Yes” to a late cancellation. And, with a heart overflowing with surprise and gratitude, I heard God say “Yes,” too. I did. And He had a little bit of a smile. And with that little nod I knew that this little weekend retreat WAS important enough to Him. Huh.
The first night, thirteen retreaters sat in a circle and shared why we were there. Many admitted that they were blocked and just couldn’t get anything on the page. Some came because they, please, just needed some time to write without distraction. And others were looking for constructive criticism or encouragement. Then it was my turn. All I could think of to say was “I want to give myself permission to call myself a writer.” I think I saw God nodding.
It was really a remarkable weekend of listening, writing, and, for me at least, wondering. Our facilitator, a published author of short stories, met with the group and talked about the writing process and storytelling. She challenged us to look through different lenses or approach our writing from a different point of view or start from the middle and work out. We had time on our own to respond to her prompts or simply write and write and write. And each time we met, we shared what we had done, something we wanted the group to hear, respond to, and perhaps critique. Oh, my, it was glorious.
Sunday morning, around the large rectangular table, we had one final opportunity to read and listen. It was an appreciative audience in front of whom we found it easy to relax and be brave. I had one more chance to read something to these real writers, new colleagues and friends. People who had maybe, at one time or another, thought that being a real writer was a lofty goal, a title best left to those who started writing plays for the neighborhood kids when they were seven. Those who have stacks of ragged notebooks filled with hand-written poetry or short stories, some just awful and others just brilliant. But who, when asked, now casually respond, “I’m a writer.” They leave out the “I’m trying my hand at…” or “I’ve been working on a story…” or “I love to write, but it’s not like I’m published, or anything.”
It seems that I should easily remember what it was that I read. What piece did I choose to share? I don’t know, but whatever it was, I remember reading with confidence.
When I finished, there was a short pause. And then just a really quiet, “Wow.” Sort of a whisper.
Because of the way we were seated, I couldn’t see who said it. But I heard it. And through that quiet voice of affirmation, I heard another Voice saying, “You are a writer.” Wow.
I don’t know where this will take me. And I am pretty sure I don’t need to know. Not now anyway. Because I know I have a much better Choreographer just waiting to show me the very best dance. One He created just for me.