Unscheduled Opportunities

woman in nature
How do I open my eyes to what’s going on around me instead of staying locked into my own plans?

This spring my family and I attended an out-of-state wedding where we knew hardly anyone — until Claire introduced herself and joined us at our table. She knew the bride and we knew the groom, so we added a few stories about the couple into the usual get-to-know-you conversation.

The more we talked, the more we found that we had in common, and we ended the evening sealing our newfound friendship with a Facebook friend request. We told Claire how glad we were that she chose our table. “I prayed that God would show me who to sit with,” she said.

It was just a wedding reception. But Claire saw that afternoon as more than just an event on her calendar: She saw an opportunity.

Oh, the lists

This morning I sat outside for a few minutes before the July heat took over the day. I had my phone with me, of course, and I swiped it on to answer an email.

After a few minutes I set it down. There was so much going on around me. A neighbor walked a dog while another got in her car with her reusable shopping bags. A construction crew prepared to pour concrete for the new house next door. Birds chirped and whistled while the ever-present cottonwood seed floated through the air as it has for the last several weeks. Just a normal summer morning.

And I had missed it while I was on my phone.

I know it’s not just my phone that pulls me away. I’ve always been a list person: Summer bucket list. Fall fun list. Christmas tradition list. Last month I had a couple of unexpected free days, and I made a list of how I could fill them. There’s always something else I should (or could) be doing.

But FOMO is exhausting, y’all. There’s a place for lists, but micromanaging my schedule takes the fun out of any fun things I put on my list. I’ve talked to people who seem so relaxed — like I’m the only person in the world they are thinking about in that moment. They aren’t rushing to the next thing or thinking about what else they should be doing; instead they enjoy being in the right-now, right-here.

I want to be like that. But I have this list.

So how do I make room for the surprises of life? How do I open my eyes to what’s going on around me instead of staying locked into my own plans?

I’m still figuring that out. But here are a few ideas I’m trying to implement:

Let go of “perfect.”

Sometimes I get so stressed over making sure everything is just right. I try to have a perfect summer, a perfect weekend, or a perfect vacation.

But life isn’t perfect, and none of my days or seasons will be perfect, either. If I can remind myself that it’s OK when things aren’t perfect, I will have an easier time being flexible and changing my plans to fit a changing situation. Even imperfect days can become treasured memories.

Leave open space in your schedule.

I don’t know about you, but I hate to be rushed. It’s really hard for me to enjoy something or feel like I’m fully present if I’m thinking about where I need to be and when I need to get there. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, but if we can work enough wiggle room into our routine that we have no need to rush to the next thing, we’ll feel a lot more relaxed and able to enjoy whatever happens.

Make plans but hold them loosely.

If you want to have a plan for your vacation or a summer bucket list, then go for it! But remind yourself that it’s OK if plans change. Consider setting aside a day or time with no plans every now and then and give yourself the chance to just come up with something last-minute. It’s good practice for us list-writers.

Realize that God directs even messed-up plans.

When those plans do change, trust that God is working in your circumstances. A messed-up schedule isn’t a lost day. An incomplete to-do list doesn’t mean we wasted our time. God can and will work out everything for our good. We can trust that.

Eyes to see

Being in the moment isn’t really about us. When we focus fully on what’s happening right now, we’re more likely to be kind to the people around us and try to get to know them better. We’re more likely to think of what God is doing in that moment and thank Him for the gifts He gives us that we sometimes forget.

I will probably always be a list-maker. But I’m learning to focus completely on who or what God has in front of me right now — and investing fully in that moment. Claire prayed that God would show her who to sit with, and He did. I’m learning to pray that God would give me eyes to see the opportunities He places in my normal days.

Copyright 2021 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Lauren Dunn
Lauren Dunn

Lauren Dunn is a freelance writer who has lived most of her life in Wichita, Kan., but still regularly gets lost when driving around town. She loves stories (especially the good ones), ice cream (chocolate chip cookie dough), and playing the ukulele (but only songs with the three chords she knows). You can read more of her thoughts at her blog, StoriedHope.

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