It was a rambling two week-long drive zig-zagging across the Chilean and Argentinian borders, down, down and over the Strait of Magellan, into Tierra del Fuego (“Land of Fire”), down to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world. I swear that from there you can smell Antarctica. We saw penguins, flamingoes, guanacos (like alpacas), flocks of rheas, icebergs, black and white-striped dolphins, and took a boat ride out to see southern right whale mamas with their calves. We camped in Torres del Paine, one of the most gorgeous national parks in the world. We took a boat out to a glacier and were awed by all that deep blue. We did a lot on that trip, and guess what? We didn’t plan it.
Now, we had sat down with a map and someone who had navigated the southern end of S. America. He highlighted nice places to visit. That was it. No hotel reservations, no itinerary, just, go!
It was the best trip of our lives. We could stop and linger where we were intrigued, we could push right through the endless Argentine pampa which was a whole lot of brown with a bit of wildlife. We lived pure spontaneity. What an adventure.
Some of you read my short story I published last week, “Magda’s Gift”. Someone asked me how I know what to write next; how does one go about crafting a story? I smiled. “Well, I watch what the characters say and do, and then I write what I saw.” Incredulity. It’s true. I have no idea what the end of the story will be when I begin to write. I have no idea what the point will be (or if there will be one), how the characters will develop, or how it will all fit together. I write like I live, shooting from the hip.
Contrast this with my beloved parents-in-law. They have a gift for planning and derive great pleasure from having time nicely chunked-out and labeled. They love the predictability and they relax into their schedule like it’s an old pair of slippers. Meanwhile, I feel like I’ve been stuffed into a whale-bone corset. Can’t. Breathe.
For the sake of family unity and peace, Dustin and I let them direct the family vacations, which they do a great job at. A few years back we all went to Colonial Williamsburg. The days were marked out and we happily donned our corsets (figuratively, you know) and toured Williamsburg and went to a fun theme park and such and such. Even the meal schedule was marked-out and all went swimmingly according to plan. There was one day left temporarily flexible according to which site we wished to revisit. Dustin and I decided that enjoying the pool at the condo sounded perfect, just relax in the sun and let the kids unwind. The family did not understand; why would we “waste” a day not “doing something”? We didn’t want to come home from our vacation needing a vacation. Within the structure of those days, we needed a bit of meandering rest and unhurried relaxing.
To be clear, I’m not holding up “shooting from the hip” as a virtue; our culture needs the type-A planners, indeed, very much! But I do submit that we also need to recognize that not everyone fits into that category. Both are gifts; you may not be able to count on me to plan a classroom party, but you can sure bet that I’ll be the one able to bring you some freshly-made chicken soup if you fall ill, and will be free to keep your children should your sitter not show. My schedule isn’t full on paper, but my life is full of responsive work (living the day, responding to seen/felt needs, letting the Spirit guide my to-do list). Some authors write out a detailed story line. They know where their characters are headed ahead of time. Some people plan out their lives. Some just don’t, happily. Whatever group you fall in, or anywhere in between, may each of us encourage one another to either plan or respond in a way that honors Christ as Lord of our lives, as the most important focus of how our days on this spinning Earth are spent.