Plan Be: How to draw closer to the divine

A Blue Heron

This afternoon I sit on a swing, listening to the cicadas sing. Sunlight streams through the treetops. My son is whizzing past me, his legs pumping hard. Orange shorts and bright purple tank top fly back and forth. His running shoes brush the sky. The reverberation from his velocity catches my breath. I cannot help but watch in wonder and awe. 

A sense of peace washes over me. I am enough. My son is enough. Right here, right now, in the middle of a seemingly endless global pandemic, this moment is enough.

This is what I am now calling my new Plan Be. It’s my attempt to respond to what is beyond my control by honoring myself and the moment at hand. My son is finally(!) back in school, fully masked, socially distanced, tested for COVID weekly. And, happy. I am afraid it will not last. But no matter how hard I try, I cannot bend this time into the outcomes my mind desires. So, I’m trying to let things be and trust God.

“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin.”

Over the weekend, I practice my Plan Be sitting in a Japanese garden. Lily pads float effortlessly in the cool and notably murky water. Some move with the breeze, others hold steady. A few tiny white blossoms dot the landscape amid the remnants of floating trash that are hard to overlook. Always, I remind myself, the good and the not-so-good sit side-by-side.

Do lily pads worry about anything, I wonder. I weigh how I parented earlier in the morning. I think about the pros and cons of making scrambled eggs for dinner (again). Listening to the breeze, I consider how much energy I spend convincing myself that my secret dreams for the future are not rooted in reality.

No sooner do my thoughts come then they begin to recede. The stillness has other plans. A large blue heron suddenly comes into view, flying from across the lake and landing on a nearby rock. Its long slender legs hold steady as it stretches its bill upward toward the sky. I watch, not moving, less than five feet away, beholden by its presence.

Be here, the blue heron demands. Drink in the sacred and the beauty all around. The ease of the waterfall, the touch of the sun. Right here, right now, this moment is enough.

“Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns.”

Practicing Plan Be in a Japanese garden seems infinitely easier than in my own home. But this too has become illuminating. My mind is often elsewhere, minutes ahead of what is happening, preparing for whatever is happening next. I host imaginary conversations in my head, compose text messages, judge my shortcomings, and replay a litany of to-dos all the while I fold the wash, listen to my son’s recap of a Netflix show, and scrub the bathroom sink.

I know I need a change when my son says to me, “Mom, we don’t really talk anymore at dinner time.” It’s just the two of us, sitting side-by-side, eating scrambled eggs (again).

My heart sinks. I do not want him to emulate me. We start reading books again at dinner, which naturally fuels interesting conversations. And I start practicing Plan Be after he goes to bed.

The truth is most nights once my son’s head hits the pillow and I walk out of his bedroom, a power rush takes over. It’s how I keep my family (and my job) well-oiled and moving forward. And it is the exact opposite of Plan Be. From 8:30 p.m. to 12 a.m. I dominate my to-do list. The hours fly by. My mind is alert, my body, drained. I tell myself I will rest once everything is done, but rest is the carrot. I mostly get the stick.

But my new Plan Be says, wait. What if I accept my exhaustion and let all those other worries be. What if I let work go for a night along with our toothpaste-splattered sink, the pile of papers that obscure my dresser, and my son’s soccer uniform that needs to be laundered for his game? Maybe I turn off my computer—and my mind—and honor myself instead. And rest, first.

It’s an uncomfortable thought. I instantly judge it as selfish. Then I remember the elegance of that blue heron and the stillness that restored me. I go with Plan Be and put myself to bed at 9 p.m. several nights in a row. I let go of all my to-dos. I breathe deeply. I trust that it is not all up to me. That right here, right now, I am already enough.

“God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work God had done in creation.”

I decide God was onto something. Sleep is delicious. My days are still hectic and demanding, but I am rooted. And considerably more patient. I also get creative in how I get things done. I teach my son how to fold his underwear and socks. I make slow cooker meals. I write in the morning after I drop him at school, trusting that work and everything else can wait. I vow to sleep more.  

German theologian Meister Eckhart advised that the sacred is “not found by adding anything but by subtracting.” How often I forget that simple equation. Practicing Plan Be gives me the space and time to come back to myself and trust that deeper knowing we all carry inside. That we are more than what we do. And more than what we worry about.

Perhaps that is why God rested too. And called it holy.