Mercy Me! I've got work to do.

Mercy Me — I've got work to do! making the world a better place – starting with me.

Stick to the plan, God

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All year long, I thought about what I would write on my 41st birthday – the end of a year spent doing corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  I have written this post many times in my head, sometimes with very powerful and profound thoughts.  But me, being me, I can’t remember any of those profundities now.

So here I sit, 41 years and 3 days old with the daunting task of trying to summarize this past year.  Although I was resolute that I would post this final account on my 41st birthday, it seems fitting now that I didn’t.

Since the beginning, 368 days ago, I had planned exactly how this project would go.  There was my plan (which was very good, by the way) and then there was God’s plan (which trumped mine, Him being God and all.)

I wondered why He couldn’t just stick to the plan.

It reminds me of when my husband and I carefully picked items for our wedding registry.  I thought, rather presumptuously I’ll admit, that people would stick to the wish list.  So when I started to receive some very unusual wedding gifts, I thought “STICK TO THE REGISTRY, PEOPLE!!!”

I know that is terribly crass, ungracious and un-bride like of me, but remember not to cast a stone unless you are without sin – or don’t harbor your own bad memories of receiving re-gifted wedding presents with remnants of Christmas wrapping paper still on the box. (We were married in January.)

Anyway, I guess maybe I have not changed that much in 15 years, because it would be a lie to say that I have not thought the same thing about this project.  “STICK TO THE PLAN, GOD!!!  JUST STICK TO THE PLAN!!!”

Of course, I was referring to my plan.

You see, there were many organizations I wanted to volunteer at.   I had lists of places whose mission corresponded to the 14 works of mercy. I filled out applications, made phone calls, emailed and was stunned by the lack of response I received.

Surely, with my college degree, nonexistent criminal record, and the fact that I was a live body willing to work for free, these places would want me.  Even if it were only to humor the crazy mid-life woman who excitedly explained to them that she was “going to spend her 40th year doing corporal and spiritual works of mercy and writing about those experiences on her blog.”

Wowser, we got another crazy lady on the phone, they must have said after I hung up.

It was frustrating.  At times, I was half-considering standing on the side of a busy intersection with a cardboard sign which read “will work for free, mercy work only.”

Still, there was always work to be done.  There was the Burmese family that needed help burying their father after a tragic car accident.  There was the girl I called Mary, who had already experienced the devastation of abortion, contemplating the fate of another unborn child.  There was the agony of a silent retreat and the joy of collecting hopeful Bible verses for an 11-year-old girl with leukemia.  There were works that I did for people in my life, but never shared out of respect for their privacy.  There were posts that I wrote that remain unread because really, there were just some things I wasn’t willing to share.

None of that was to plan.

Within the first three months, I was ready to turn 41 and be done with it.

I was tired of worrying about what work I was going to do, what I would write about, what people would think, who would read it and perhaps just as important, who wouldn’t.

I lamented that I sound like a clanging gong or a self-righteous hypocrite.  I had gone from being very private about my faith to sharing it with a galaxy in cyber-space.

I reasoned that I was happier before this endeavor.  I had less self-doubt, or at the least I didn’t have cause to see my insecurities manifest every week the way it would when I posted my private thoughts in such a public forum.

But there is a lot of good that comes from such cathartic transparency too.

Quite simply, it helps you to get over yourself.  I stopped being so afraid of the long list of what ifs and who will, and adopted a much easier who cares approach.  And, I don’t mean that in a flippant way because truly I always cared very much, but I also learned caring too much wasn’t good for me.

As the months passed, I really did try to let go and let God.  But let’s be real, I don’t exactly excel at that.  Still, I began to trust that He was leading this journey, and perhaps (again, Him being God and all) knew what He was doing.

I came to realize that God played a trick on me.  I thought the actual works were the most crucial part of this journey by opening my eyes to the suffering of humanity, and it has.  Yet, opening my laptop and writing about God’s love has by far had the most impact on my life.  It is what has truly challenged me, inspired me and brought me closer to Him and more aligned with the person I want to be.  It has shown me the depths of humility and gratitude.

I would have told you before I began that I knew humility, but really what I knew was self-doubt.  I could have told you everything that I had to be grateful for, but it is different altogether to actually feel that gratitude.

It was all part of God’s plan, and as you would expect from Him, it was brilliant.

I concede it was even better than mine.

So, this post didn’t reach you when I planned for it to, nor does it read the way it did in my head at so many different points throughout the year.  Still, I trust that it is just as it was meant to be.

As for my plans for my 41st year, I have to admit I don’t have a clue.  I look back at the countless hours I spent on this endeavor and am just…. Well honestly, a little bit amazed at myself.  (If you didn’t hear that, it was definitely the sound of a clanging gong.)

I know I should be ashamed of that obnoxious sound, but I am proud of what I have done and more so, who I did it for.

Still, I don’t know where I go from here.  Strangely, I am okay with this.

I have a God who has been ever good to me.  I have each of you who have been ever gracious.  And, I live in a world that is ever desperate for love, hope and compassion.

I have faith that each of us can make it better.  I can make it better for someone.  You can make it better for someone, too. That is not something you do for just a day, or a year, or a mid-life crisis.

It is something we are all called to do with our lives, regardless of all the other crazy cruddy stuff going on in them.  So just be open and be willing.  Be kind and uncomplicated. Be gentle and compassionate.

There is much work left to do.  Trust me, you don’t need a plan.  You just need to get started.

Thank you for going on this journey with me, sharing your insight, encouragement and prayers.  It meant the world to me.  I completed all of the works of mercy, except one — visit those in prison.  Apparently, it is hard to get into prison without committing a felony.  Who knew? I am working on it though and promise, I am committed to going to prison.  How many mid-life mama’s say that?!  

For right now, I don’t want to worry about what’s ahead for this space or my life, I just want to share my sincere gratitude for each of you –for believing that we can all make a difference in the world and for understanding that it’s the simple acts of goodness that will ultimately make that difference.  Now, get to it.  Mercy me!  We’ve all got work to do…

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Author: Lara Patangan

Mercy me, I’ve got work to do… is a blog I started on my 40th birthday to chronicle my experiences spending the year doing corporal and spiritual works of mercy. No longer on the cusp of a new decade, I am still here finding that much work remains – in the world, my community, my relationship with God and perhaps most challenging, within myself. Please sign up and join me as we share the work that matters most – being better people. In hopes that when the decades cease to pass the world will still whisper of the graces left in our wake.

26 thoughts on “Stick to the plan, God

  1. Lara, It has been a year filled with LIFE, Life is not always happy and pretty and easily defined and you have brought it all to your readers. I have enjoyed your writing over this year and hope you will continue with your witty insights. I have also cried reading some of these where Life can not be understood or explained but must be accepted and I think you help us readers to understand that.

    Thank you for sharing your 40th year with us! MM

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    • Beautifully said, Marcia. I suppose it is all just life. It’s amazing though when we open our eyes wide enough how different from one another our lives can be. Yet I think despite that, we have more in common than not. I am so glad you followed along and so appreciate you taking the time to comment.

      Lara

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  2. Hi Lara! I was just checking a few of your posts and had a quick question about your blog. I was hoping you could email me back when you get the chance -emilywalsh688 (at) gmail.com- Thanks : )

    Emmy

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    • Thank you, Bruce. That is a bible quote you know? Not the Lara of course, but something like “well, done my good and faithful servant or maybe it’s friend.” This is why I shouldn’t quote the Bible!

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  3. Hurrah! May 41 and beyond be as blessed for you and those around you….

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    • Thank you Amy! I really appreciate your kind words and enthusiasm. Hurrah reminds me of that pre-school song about the ants marching Hurrah! Hurrah! I am probably not coordinated enough to march though. How about a big WOO HOO!! Ah, that felt good! xo

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  4. Happy Birthday. You are awesome! Enjoyed the last two months of your year. Contemplating something similar for my 42nd year. 🙂

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  5. It is like the end of my favorite T.V. Series!! It can’t be the end!

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  6. Thank you for reminding us each month that works of mercy are everywhere in our daily lives. As much as you have written about the works of mercy, we too have learned to reflect about our own lives. You have an amazing gift to write. I hope to see more. Thank you again for sharing your spiritual travels the past year!
    Your friend, Barbara

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    • Thank you for your kind words Barbara. I LOVE that you get that they are EVERYWHERE in our daily lives (sorry to go so crazy with the all caps, but I am excited!) Of course, I sought out other ways because of this project but really, so many crossed my path. I think the difference is before I wouldn’t have reached out to get involved. Once you get used to it, it really just becomes a part of you. I think so many of us do works of mercy and we don’t even think about it which is cool but its also neat to assign that value to it. The value really is priceless. Thanks for following from the get-go Barbara, it means a lot. Lara

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  7. Visit the imprisoned could also mean nursing home or homebound. Probably a better choice. Bake some banana bread and make a new friend.

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    • Oh no Tricia, I am going to prison! But I agree with you that it can mean nursing home, home bound, animal shelter, hospital, drug addict etc. But I need to go to prison because I need to learn to be more compassionate to prisons. It’s kind of like, the more you don’t want to do something the more you need to soften yourself to that thing. I love that you are still thinking of my banana bread though! (Even though I know you think your recipe is better!!)

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  8. I continue to be in awe of what you have accomplished, how much you’ve grown, and what you allowed God to use you to do… all wrapped up in a beautifully written reflection and even lesson for the rest of us! Thank you for sharing some of your deepest thoughts with us and trusting us with those feelings. Excited to see what is in store for the future… good work, friend.

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    • Thank you Mrs. JMT. I could have done this without you but aesthetically this site would have been a disaster and there were certainly many occasions where you patched me up as well. Feeling blessed 🙂 that you were willing and around for both!

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  9. Kudos, Lara! You DID stick with the plan and never gave up the project. By the way, as much as I complain about my job, I know it is a work of mercy, too. And funny, but I am being asked to teach parenting to inmates one day a week. Unsure if I will accept but maybe I can sneak you in!
    Bravo,
    Sarah

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    • Oh ny goodness, that is so funny! I would love to go with you and learn how to parent too!! These children really should come with instructions! Yes, you do incredible mercy work on your job 🙂 I admire you so much for all that you do. xo

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  10. Lara, what a wonderful journey your year has been and we are all so lucky to have been able to ride along with you (virtually). Congrats on making something meaningful out of the milestone.

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    • Thank you so much Amy. I really have to credit the Holy Spirit on this one. It was one of those ideas that just felt so perfect, I had to do it. I can’t tell you all the ways it has blessed me. Well, I could but that would be a post in itself!

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  11. Thank you so much for all that you have shared with us! What you have accomplished is incredible and you have really made a difference. I am glad you have been rewarded for all of your hard work. I am selfishly glad to hear that there may be more, because I always look forward to reading your posts when I see a new one in my inbox. I can’t wait to see what this next year brings for you!

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    • Thank you Cheryl! I am happy to be 41 and really do consider this space an incredible blessing. It wouldn’t be though if it were not for you all at the other end. So, thank you for always being there…and for wanting more!

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  12. Just discovering your blog and I love it. Thank you for continuing to share your message!

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