I remember staring at our summer bucket list. Here it was mid-June and it was already shot to pieces.
I had been so intentional that summer. Our oldest would be home from his freshman year at college for only a few weeks before heading to work at a camp in North Carolina. So I made a list of places we wanted to go and things we wanted to do, books that needed to be read and camps the kids would attend.
Summer of 2011 had all the possibilities.
Top of the list was our annual end-of-school celebration. We typically wrapped up our homeschool year with a family night out to a special restaurant. Dan would go around the table and speak to each child about the growth and victories he’d seen in them that year – courage to try a new sport, hard work put into a difficult class or character shown with a sibling. As Dan spoke, I could see reflected in their faces how his words filled them up.
That summer, we’d decided to celebrate with a day on the water. Just so happened, all the high school friends of my oldest, after a year away at different schools, were reconvening that same day.
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Could he skip family day, he asked? We could see he really didn’t want to miss out on this time with his high school friends. A decision either way seemed to cost and while we wobbled internally, in the end we guarded the family day.
We rented a pontoon boat, packed a lunch and snacks and spent that Saturday tubing up and down the Intracoastal. It was a perfect day by all accounts and I checked it off the bucket list.
Three weeks later, life fractured irrevocably. The rest of the summer was a muddled collection of hard, heavy days and estate issues and trying to help the anguish of seven broken hearts out of the brokenness of my own. The bucket list that was to be our summer would never happen.
I stopped making any kind of bucket list. Why do it when so much was out of my control? When I heard people talk about their bucket list dreams I’d think, “Hmph. Good luck with that.” I couldn’t put my heart on paper again. God had my future and I would just trust whatever plans He had for me.
But with some time, I can see that even in our hard, unexpected summer, the bucket list did its job. We were purposeful with the time we had. We made memories that we will forever cherish. We said no to the other pulls because of the YES already on our list.
I’ve come to see that there’s a place for bucket lists. Maybe it’s a sign of some healing that I have a few pipe dreams again. But I’ve learned this —
Make a bucket list, yes. But write it in pencil.
I can make plans and dream dreams knowing that it’s all if the Lord wills.
God has the final say-so over my list. It might look completely different. There may be hard things I know nothing about yet. Or it may be better than anything I could imagine.
My friend, Jill, once told me she’s never made a bucket list because she cannot put God in a bucket.
Like everyone else, Jill had things she wanted to do and places she wanted to see. Turns out, God’s ideas were far, far beyond anything she could have imagined. One day, her husband was offered a new position at the place where he’d worked for years — a position that allows them to travel all expenses paid with VIP extras to places she’d only dreamed about.
So this summer, I’ll scratch out a bucket list. It will help us choose well and be intentional with the time we have. I’ll dream of all the possibilities — in pencil. It will give us vision, but we’ll hold it loosely, knowing that God gets to erase or veto or add to out of His perfect will.
We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9
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