Sometimes things don't go how you planned for them to go.
This week in Northern Michigan, winter seems to have come quite early.
It's been snowing here most days this week, which means in our backyard there's flower pots outside with snow on them, a few deck chairs with show, a trampoline with snow, and probably other things that I can't see, because they're buried in snow.
Clearly, we didn't expect the snow to come so soon.
We were walking behind our house yesterday, walking the 1/3 mile path we cut through the field, back to the woods. About halfway back there's a small, leggy apple tree, hidden among the edge of the tree line, intertwined with the oaks and maples.
This summer was the first time I've noticed that it actually produces apples, without any deliberate tending or care on the part of any human.
Wendy pointed it out to me. It's far enough off of our path that it takes some sleuthing to find it. In late summer, when the apples are nearly full-grown, it's doubly difficult to spot them among the leaves of the surrounding trees.
But yesterday, because of the early winter gifts this week, the apples were all covered with a nice dusting of snow. And I'm sure if I were foolish enough to bite into one, I would find them to be mealy and mushy, just like a frost-bitten apple should be.
Apples are meant for the Autumn. All their sweet-tart glory is best taken in prior to the onset of winter.
Apples are a joy, but sometimes it snows before you have a chance to pick them all.
I've had this sense for sometime now that life is the same way.
I didn't intend to have a tumor in my mouth this year.
I didn't intend for my Dad to die a few years ago.
I didn't intend to encounter such chaos in pastoral ministry.
I didn't intend to struggle with my own chaos well into my 30s.
I didn't intend to be as emotionally unsettled as I often am.
I didn't intend for so many things to go the way they have gone.
When things have taken turns in my life that are so drastically different than what I had set out for, or even what I had hoped for, it often wrecks me in the short term.
When I first met Wendy, I wasn't looking for a relationship with her. I was still hoping for a relationship with someone else in my life.
When Josiah was born, I was only two-years into a four-year graduate program. Hardly a convenient time to become a parent.
When I had two surgeries this summer in a matter of eight days (for REAL), it really stopped me in my work-hard, lead-well, ambitious-doing-it-for-the-Kingdom-of-God tracks. I had hoped for something different.
But it's these times of surprise, when the plans I had laid for my life began to fall apart, and something new and unexpected began to emerge, it's these times that have made my life full of beauty, full of love, and full of goodness.
I'm so grateful that my original plans haven't worked out. It really did wreck me in the short term.
But with so many failed ventures and unexpected turns, I'm so grateful that things haven't always gone my way.
In the long term, there is only joy, and gratitude.
So may you find plans better than the ones you have laid.
May you life be slowly wrecked, so that something more beautiful can emerge.
May you slow down today, and pay attention to everything at work around you.
May you walk slowly down the nearest snowy lane, and notice the beauty of it all.
May you find snowy apples today, and be reminded that we're all apart of the Grand Story that is being written.
May you play your part.
And in doing so, may you join in with the work of renewal and restoration that is a happening all around you.
May it be so.