It’s early morning as I write these words, far too early for most of humanity on this side of the hemisphere to be up and stumbling about their kitchen, searching for coffee.

To-do lists are swirling in my brain, and my fingers are itching to set ideas to paper, to stop the swirling, to make sure nothing gets forgotten in a week that will prove to be busier than the last. I love the feeling as ink flows over paper, as ideas and tasks and requirements pour forth, putting order to the chaos — giving me perceived control over my day, my week, my month.

Even better is that satisfying feeling as I carefully start striking off each item, showing that my day had worth (that I have worth) as revealed by accomplished tasks and goals and small steps on larger projects.

I speak of my days based upon my to-do lists; I am either successful or unsuccessful based upon that tiny scrap of paper torn from my grocery store receipt with script only I can read, scribbled in numbered order on the back.

I have been known to wail in frustration that “I got NOTHING done today!” – meaning that my day was filled with intrusions and interruptions, leaving my to-do list intact, unchecked, and unaccomplished.

I have a tendency to measure my importance by the length of my to-do list and to measure my value by the number of items checked off my list before my head meets my pillow at the end of the day.

Traveling around Chicago with a friend this past weekend, I watched as she did life with purpose, while still noticing, pausing, and interrupting her journey for unexpected moments and opportunities. While my tendency was to singularly focus on the next task at hand, she accomplished the same task while also noticing and responding graciously to those around her.

Her perceptiveness was rewarded with a fleeting friendship with a college student from Austria who joined our travels for a bit, with conversations revealing fascinating people standing around us on the bus, and with a fuller, richer travel experience that included others who wandered across our path.

She isn’t afraid to pause, look someone in the eyes and engage them in a conversation that goes deeper than talk of the weather. She isn’t afraid to alter plans, to move over so that another can join the journey, too. She isn’t afraid to have her to-do list interrupted.

And that is my prayer this morning: that I would allow my to-do list to be interrupted without grumbling, without complaining, without feeling I’ve accomplished less. While my to-do list can provide a tentative framework for my day, it should not — cannot — be the standard for determining whether or not my day was successful.

As I put pen to paper this morning, planning out the day and week ahead, I need to leave white space and empty numbered slots for those things God has planned. And so that is what I pray this morning, that the coming week that feels so full and so busy would not deter me from pausing, from graciously allowing interruptions, from perceptively responding to those who cross my path.

We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)

Lord, may we set aside space in our lists, our plans to respond graciously and perceptively to your plans. Help us not to miss a single opportunity to respond to your invitation, to pause in our own journeys to perceptively interact with those around us. Determine our steps, today. Amen.