Potholes, Coffee, and the Unexpected


Sometimes the unexpected occurs. 

. . . Maybe more often than we’d like to admit.

As a planner, I tend to have a difficult time when the unexpected occurs. It makes me feel out of control (and I like control).

However, I am learning—and ever re-learning—that it is precisely in such times that it is imperative to be open to receive whatever the Lord has in store. In addition to a widening scope of beauty, such experiences serve to expand my understanding of hospitality . . . . Hospitality to the unexpected. 

One Sunday morning, Daniel and I were on our way to Wellspring. We took what I would call the “scenic” route to the highway—passing charming shops and cafes as well as a slew of old houses with lots of character.

Nearing the highway, we encountered a pothole. The car encountered a pothole, that is. The front, passenger-side wheel, to be exact.

The resulting sound made it evident that we would not be continuing our journey to church. Pulling over onto a side street, we stopped to assess the damage. 

I so appreciate the calm with which Daniel handled the situation. After changing out the tire for a full-sized spare, the latter was in need of filling up. We located a gas station with an air compressor that accepted credit cards—we only had one quarter between us—and remedied the situation.

By that time, we would have been significantly late to church. Hm. Change of plans, I suppose. 

What’s that, Daniel? We were both thinking about that coffee shop we passed by earlier? The one we haven’t been to yet?

Yep. We got coffee instead. 

Interestingly, our time at the coffee shop was characterized by the unexpected, too. 

Upon entering, we noticed how full and animated the place was. The only seats available were high stools at the bar counter. Not ideal.

There was seating outside, however, which looked nice. Especially in the warm, morning sun. That became the plan. 

. . . Until a mother and her toddler rolled up with his bright, plastic wagon. Change of plans, again. Thankfully a table had opened up inside. We sat down with our coffee.

Soon the table outside opened up again—the family had bought treats to go. We happily grabbed our things and migrated. 

Soon after re-situating ourselves outside, a woman sat down at the little table right next to ours. Now you have to understand that the tables were so close it’s as if she was there to sit with us. Had she a companion, it would have felt different, but she simply sat there. Alone. And silent. 

Needless to say, it was a bit awkward; Daniel and I didn’t begin conversing for a bit—the distance between us and her (as well as the lack of another person in her party) made it difficult to have a deep conversation, let alone much of any kind.

We eventually adapted and began to converse. Though speaking quietly, we connected meaningfully on several deep matters of life. It was a rich time indeed! I was and am very grateful for the special time to connect that morning—how very unexpected. 

Despite the presence of many more distractions—families coming and going, two boisterous companions arriving to join our formerly lone “table neighbor,” folks walking by with their dogs, etc.—we really did have a special time together. 

We actually ended our time there on an outside bench, just a little ways down from our outdoor table, to avoid the noise of new conversations. Again, in spite of all the unexpected changes and distractions, our time that Sunday morning was just what (we didn’t know) we needed. 

Unexpected occurrences may seem to toss a wrench into a nicely working plan, but then again they can open the door to otherwise unavailable encounters.

When plans change and distractions steal attention, may we be patient and open to receive what the present moment has to offer. May we pause to ask the Lord what He may want us to see, to hear, to experience. May we listen.

The question is not, “How do we avoid the unexpected . . .” but rather, when the unexpected does occur, “How will we respond?” (Notice, I did not say react.) 

Responding in a hospitable manner and with a listening posture to the unexpected enables beauty to flourish in our sight. Rather than changing the situation, such a stance opens our eyes to notice what frustration can blind us to: the beauty that’s inviting us . . . that’s already there.

By Jessica J. Schroeder, adapted from “Potholes, Coffee, and the Unexpected” on Slowing to Wonder