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On Planning, Connecting, and Offering Grace

Mar 29, 2021

This post is by Deb Alexander.

I’ve always been a planner. I used an assignment notebook years earlier than I actually needed to, simply because I loved making a check mark in the little box when I finished a homework assignment. These days, my bullet journal is my planner of choice. Every Sunday afternoon, I sit with my felt-tip markers and ballpoint pens to create a (very simple!) layout for the week ahead. This planning rhythm gives me the opportunity to blend my love of organization with a (very tiny!) bit of creativity. 

Because my bullet journal serves as my weekly planner, it is filled with lists of things that ideally need to be checked off by week’s end: deadlines for my writing work, chores to keep our home running smoothly, errands to run. Over the past year or so, though, I’ve started using it in a new way: to help me to stay connected with my people. 

This practice started in April of last year, when I realized that one of my best friends and I hadn’t communicated in any way for over two weeks. We were in an unexpected season of confusion, (yes - this was at the beginning of the pandemic and we were all newly-quarantining here where I live) but I knew I did not want to become disconnected from her, or from anyone else. I had a hunch I would need to establish a new plan, a new rhythm, to stay in touch during this unusual season.

So in the front of my bullet journal, I wrote a “people” list that included family members, friends, co-workers, and several young women I mentor. Not every person who is important to me is listed here. The names of my adult kids, both of whom live on their own, are not written down, nor are my mom and dad, as well as a few very close friends, because we already have a well-established rhythm of connecting. 

During my Sunday afternoon planning time, I flip to my “people” list and I write each name on the day that I plan to connect with them. I know this might seem a bit impersonal, a bit transactional. I felt that way at first, too. After a year of practicing this planning rhythm, however, it simply feels intentional. Connecting with my people is important to me, and writing their names in my planner, on a specific day, ensures we touch base regularly. 

I’d love to add one final thought about connecting during this pandemic season. Friends, if your relationships are anything like mine, they’ve taken a hit in 2020 and early 2021. I’ve learned that trying to maintain connections over phones and screens is hard. It truly takes time and creativity and energy than I do not always have. Despite my best efforts, I have not always been a good friend to my friends. 

So, I was encouraged when I read a post from a writer-friend recently. She stated that she is declaring a “friendship amnesty.” Doesn’t that sound lovely? She is purposefully planning ahead to extend grace to her friends, regardless of what their friendship has looked like over the past year. Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we all did that? I know I need that friendship- grace extended to me. Join me, would you, in offering and receiving that grace? 


Deb Alexander has been married to her college sweetheart for 30 years. They have two children - a daughter who is married to her college sweetheart, and a son. Deb was born and raised in New England, and she and her family have called Central Illinois home for over 20 years. She is a writer, coach and  tutor who loves birds, books, long walks on the trail near her home, and family dinners. Deb would love to connect with you on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/debalexander/.

Photo by Dee @ Copper and Wild on Unsplash

 

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