Pencil

Oh my goodness. I should have used a pencil.

For over thirty years I have measured and structured my days by keeping a day planner. The styles have varied, and have most recently landed in the month-at-a-glance type. Not too bulky, lays flat, and holds enough space to jot down birthdays and appointments. I simultaneously have an index card under a paperclip that holds the planner open to the proper month. 

On the index card is my daily to-do list. Using various color pens, I write things like, “buy coffee” or “plan next year’s history class” or “schedule eye doctor appointments.” I do not write normal daily things such as Pilates, take a walk, Bible reading, cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc. Those just happen because those just happen.

I am fond of writing things down, and it delivers inordinate pleasure if it looks pretty. Thus the colored pens, and neat index card and attractive planner. Bless the people who keep all appointments and plans in their phone. They are missing out on the beauty of a straight, clean line crossing through a finished task.

Back in college, I recall using a pencil to write in my planner. Things were prone to change quickly with assignments, social gatherings and the like. I learned quickly that unless I wanted to own stock in white-out, I had better use pencil. Years later, when our children were small, I still used a sharpened Ticonderoga. Our best made plans seemed to flounder weekly, as they are prone to do with little ones. Someone would come down with a fever, or the baby was teething, or I was too tired to attend.

Then our children grew up, and although the pace of life increased, I was no longer cancelling things. I could leave everyone home when I needed to get a cut and highlight, or pick up medication, or meet a friend for coffee. One day I started jotting things down in pretty pen colors in my planner. And life carried on.

Until 2020. Wow. I continue to think of Proverbs 16:9 (ESV):“The heart of a man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” We had BIG things planned for this year, and most of them simply will not happen. It feels tangled and sad and uncomfortable. Yet God has allowed this pandemic and the cancellation of so much. 

My hero, Elisabeth Elliot, famously said, “With acceptance comes peace.” Yes. The posture of our heart will lead to hand-wringing, clenched fists, and anger, or….peace. Have your way, LORD. I love and trust you.

“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while then vanishes away.” (James 4:13-17 NASB)

In other words, write in pencil. Make plans and hold them loosely. God knows best.

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