I missed a plane and then had an extended lay-over due to a late arriving aircraft.  I nervously tried to figure out how to turn the headlights on in a new car for which I had just refused all extra insurance.  In the dark, I navigated along the fast-paced 405 and I-5, following a GPS that was guiding me to a place I had never been.  I circled the hotel to find where I was supposed to park.  Stupidly, I had to ask the hotel clerk if he knew the make of a Sentra.  I later realized Nissan was clearly written on the key I had in hand.  The room wasn’t what I expected based on hotel pictures.  I couldn’t figure out how to make the old bathtub faucet produce the water I desired until the second day of my stay.  I missed the evening part the conference that I had flown half-way across the country to attend.

Perceptions and preconceived ideas greatly change how we experience situations.

In my mind, this conference would go perfectly.  I would fly to sunny southern California, learn mountains of information, meet great people, and then blissfully return home.  The hotel would be perfect.  The drives would be scenic and pleasant.  Everything would go according to plan.

The first evening, I laid on the bed in my less-than-expected hotel room and considered the stress I was experiencing.  While there were delays and inconveniences, nothing that terrible had happened.  No accidents, no major dilemmas, nothing that would ruin my time at the conference.  Yet I still felt disappointed and a bit let down.

My expectations were not met and I realized they had been ridiculously high.  When I thought back to how I expected the few days to go, I imagined sunny days, easy drives, and luxurious sleeping quarters.  I let the novelty of the situation turn the reality into something disheartening.  When I surveyed the past day with few expectations, it turned out that reality wasn’t quite so bad.

The next day, the sun was brilliant as I drove to the school.  I had a long day of meeting people, listening to talks, prayer, and eating.  My drive on I-5 was exciting as I learned to navigate the many cars and learned by observation the rules of the road.  The faucet that initially gave me problems finally released hot water to wash away the tiredness of the day.  And the next day, I woke earlier and spent twenty minutes with my toes in the sand at the beach while I watched surfers attempt to catch waves.  Later in the day, I spent a few minutes in a Mission Basilica before leaving for the airport.

Along the way, there were wrong turns, awkward situations, and stressful moments.  I wandered a bit and wasn’t quite certain where I needed to go.  But once I let go of the romanticized vision of how my trip would unravel, I was able to enjoy what actually happened and appreciate the beauty of the present moment.

Sometimes my expectations ruin situations that could be perfectly fine if I had only entered them with hands open rather than clearly laid demands.  The Lord did not disappoint me, He simply provided something in a different way than expected.  Beautiful moments aren’t the ones we orchestrate or repeatedly imagine, but are the ones we experience mindful of the generosity of the Lord.  

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