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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Plan B

When I ask friends out to lunch, I ask them to pick a second date too. That way, in case something unexpected comes up for one of us, we have another date to fall back on. I learned long ago, when making plans, it’s always good to have a Plan B, just in case something makes Plan A impossible.

I have never kept track of how many times I’ve had to resort to Plan B (or even Plan C!), but it is fairly often. My plans don’t always go as I want them to—in both small and big ways. In high school I planned on eventually becoming a teacher, marrying some nice guy, and having four kids. Instead, I felt God leading me to become a Sister of Notre Dame. As an SND, I planned on teaching high school for most of my life, only to be asked to leave the classroom and to serve as novice director, then in leadership for my congregation, and eventually into retreat and writing ministries. As John Lennon supposedly remarked, “If you want to make God laugh, just tell God your plans.”

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t make plans, of course. After all, planning is one way we channel our time, energy, and talents into activities that are necessary, worthwhile, and helpful to others. We plan many things: our daily schedule, our work, meals, household chores, errands, parties, liturgical celebrations, vacations. But when we make plans, we should not be so wedded to them that we become totally discombobulated when things don’t go as we planned.

Scripture is filled with stories of individuals whom God asked to change their plans in major ways. In doing so, they were the better for it—and so were we! Sarah and Abram were an elderly couple in Ur, probably enjoying their retirement years. But God asked them to change their plans by uprooting their lives and trekking to an unknown land far away. Moses planned on hiding from the Egyptians, because he had killed one of them. But God asked him to go back not only to Egypt, but to Pharaoh himself and to eventually lead the Israelites out of their slavery. Mary was planning on marrying Joseph and living a quiet life in an ordinary town. But God asked her to radically alter her plans and become the mother of “the Most High.”

Jesus was someone whose plans seemed to change or evolve during his life. As a young man did he plan on becoming a carpenter like his dad? We can only imagine how his intimate relationship with Abba led him to embrace a life as an itinerant religious preacher instead. In Gethsemane, it’s clear that Jesus’ plan did NOT include crucifixion, yet he accepted even death on a cross as part of God’s plan for him.

What makes it so hard for us to change our plans at times? For one thing, being forced to change our plans reminds us how little control we have over our lives. And not being in control can be disturbing for many of us. But our faith reassures us that our lives are in God’s loving hands—whether we are enjoying Plan A, or whether we have had to resort to Plan B, C, D, or another letter of the alphabet!

Here are a few questions for your reflection:

List some aspects of your life that have gone as you planned.

List some aspects of your life that did not go as you planned.

Has a change in your plans ever been a real blessing for you?

PS: My blog is being updated with a new look soon! At the same, some of the problems with readers not being able to subscribe and/or leave comments will be fixed. The blog might be “down” for a few days soon to accomplish this—just so you know. Meanwhile, I’ll keep writing and posting these reflections every Monday. Thank you for reading “Sunflower Seeds.” I appreciate each one of you!

I chose a song by “Casting Crowns” called “The Change in Me.” I like the various and beautiful images of God’s Spirit in this song. God’s Spirit is a gentleman… a wrecking ball.. a whispering… a holy flame… the air I breathe… the life in me… the change in me.

I would love to hear from you below—especially some examples from your own life where you got Plan A and those times you had to resort to Plan B and beyond. Also, I’d love to know if a change in your plans ever proved to be a real blessing for you!

3 Responses

  1. Good morning, Sr. Melannie, good morning, all…

    I’m pretty sure my entire life has been a plan B (a plan C, D, E…). I “retired” thirty-six years of teaching English in 2017, and I felt really good about it — sure, happy, convinced. In fact, my wife and I decided to go to Hawaii for two weeks at the beginning of September, just because we now could! (PS: prayers for the island of Maui!) Then, on the last day of our vacation, I get a text from my former school: “Are you home yet?” Instead of texting back, I called. Something came up; they wanted to know if I could sub until November. I said yes, but November turned into December. December turned into February vacation, and before you know it, I’m there till June — tired, worn out, convinced more than ever that retirement was the way to go, vowing never to “sub” again!

    Until I did. This time at an all girls Catholic school — Fontbonne. They needed me to sub until Thanksgiving, just three classes. And, yes, it ended at Thanksgiving. But here’s the thing: I fell in love with the school! I didn’t want to leave. The following year a full time position opened up and I took it, and taught there another four year, before retiring last June. Absolutely sure that my career was over!

    Until it wasn’t…going back in a few weeks, this time as a theology teacher! Must be a whole lot of laughing up there in Heaven!

  2. When I studied and then taught math and physics I worked out the problems using a #2 pencil. This allowed me to erase the mistakes when I found them and then continue with only the new solution. I still use a #2 pencil when I start the rough draft of a presentation or take notes during a meeting or add reminders in my calendar. Then, if/when I need to make a change, the “old” is erased and the “new” is in place. The sheet of paper or the calendar is neat, refreshed, showing the revised ideas or the latest plans — B, C or??. Of course, with all the changes in my life I cannot fathom the number of pencils I have used down to a short stub.

  3. Good morning, Sister. I have always had trouble with change. I think I have a touch OCD. As a little girl I had my life planned out: grow up, be a teacher, get married and have thirteen kids (I read Cheaper By the Dozen and wanted one more than that family). I did grow up and become a teacher – but not the teacher I dreamed of being – it was a different grade level; I did get married, no kids, and divorced – but one day while teaching, a student asked me why I didn’t have any kids – I answered that I had wanted 13, but my students became my kids AND I had 13 nieces and nephews-it was an amazing revelation on how God had answered the prayer for 13 kids; my husband and I remarried after a ten year “hiccup” of being divorced; and I have had many more changes that have surprised me in good ways and some not so good over the years. The changes have always made me realize God is with me, next to me, and holding me. I still don’t like change, but when any occur, instead of sinking into depression I instantly turn to God and seek His peace and look for what He is trying to teach me.

    Thank you for always making me think and appreciate this beautiful, wonderful life I have been graced with.

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Meet Sr. Melannie

Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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