pick one thing

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When our oldest daughter Carlen was 4 or 5 years old, a friend gave us a timely book to help us teach her about cause and effect. The book was called What If Everybody Did That? The premise of the book was showing a child moving throughout a day making seemingly insignificant actions and the repeatedly asked question was “what if everybody did that?” Then on the following page, the fallout was shown of the same action performed by many people.  Throwing a banana peel out the car window seems minor until the entire city begins to throw their trash willy nilly.
Picture mountains of garbage causing traffic to come to a halt. This book evoked plenty of giggles but the point was cemented in our minds, our small actions matter whether individually or collectively.

I unplugged last week for a few days. I found myself feeling overwhelmed by each email bearing the subject line of “our response to COVID-19”. Every email was well-meaning but when amassed it became daunting.  So when emails begin piling up in our inboxes one by one they sidle up next to the stress already present inside us. Because when our senses are lured to a solitary topic, our emotions follow and grow.

We are beginning another week of isolation and the needs around us are most likely going to continue to increase. My suggestion is to pick one thing in the various areas of your life right now to lessen the potential of being overwhelmed.

As life would have it, I have had plenty of home alone time since Thanksgiving, thanks to leaving a job. I knew that particular time was to be about resting and healing and slowly looking for work. But a small corner of my mind started compiling a list of ALL the things I could do with this new unassigned time. I could repaint our kitchen, organize decades of photos or reorganize ___________. 

But I soon realized, rest and being uber-productive aren’t very compatible companions. Now that I do have actual companions during the day and night, it becomes even more important to choose areas that breed peace to me and those who suddenly surround me.

I want to suggest that you don’t have to achieve or accomplish anything monumental during this time. Your most important assignment is to find ways to navigate this segment of time as best and right as you can. We are not the same, possess the same personalities or preferences but collectively, none of us have encountered this newfound reality before, let’s tread gently. 

Since I have had a little head start, this is what picking one thing looks like for me now:

For my body, I am taking a walk outside every day. Yes, I would love to try every online exercise workout currently available for free, but for now, I am keeping it simple. Also, my personality is the pick too many good things and because of all the choices, I don’t start anything. 

For my mind, I am taking five minutes before I go to bed and writing in a journal about what the day was like, what I did and how I am feeling. The other day, I might have rejoiced about beating Caleb at backgammon. I have forgotten to journal once already. It’s an intention, not perfection.

For connection, as part of my morning practice after my devotional time, I am writing a card to a loved one. 

For others, I purchased a gift certificate from a business I fear will not survive. There are countless ways I can give and there will be more ways I will give or help in the weeks to come but last week, I picked this one way. 

For my home, I will clear the weeds along the fence and plant nasturtium seeds.

For my people within my walls,  I will love and care for them well, however, that may look on a given day.

For my people outside my walls, I will check-in frequently via all the wonderful ways technology allows.

For those I encounter outside, I will smile at them.

Yes, I said pick one and I have listed eight. I have picked one thing in the areas of my life I want to nurture during this time. However, you might pick as your one thing to: 

Meditate every morning. 

Listen to music while cooking dinner. 

Endeavor to look for something beautiful every day and list it. 

Create a bracket of picture books by reading two a day and determine the champion as a family. 

Learn to say I love you in different languages and reflect on the people with this tongue. 

Take a nap every day. 

Read a poem at night. 

Blow bubbles at sunset. 

Read a psalm.

Learn a joke and tell someone. 

Complete a crossword puzzle every morning.

Start bird watching.

Watch no more than an hour of news.

Limit scrolling your devices.

Watch the flames in your backyard fire pit or fireplace.

Reread a favorite book.

Paint your nails a color you normally wouldn’t. Be bold, you are not in public.

Share never told stories with those who are living in your midst.

Fill an egg carton with dirt and plant some seeds, let each day be numbered by growth.

Print out these coloring pages by one of my favorites and color something gently humorous.

Pick one thing which can provide an anchor during these challenging times. 

What if everybody did that?

We might just create a mountain of peace, joy, and love. 

tables

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system:

  • an organized set of doctrines, ideas, or principles usually intended to explain the arrangement or working of a systematic whole 
  • an organized or established procedure 
  • harmonious arrangement or pattern

There are systems in place which govern our lives.

We may not be aware of how many established systems ground us.

Many are not of our choosing like the traffic system full of

stop lights and rules of the road.

Others we decide how we would like to arrange our

time and space:

make the bed or don’t,

drink coffee or endeavor to  be caffeine-free,

partake in daily breakfast or obey stomach

pangs by mid-morning,

exercise regularly or not.

These daily tasks are part of a routine, a pattern

which makes up a life system helping to

bring order and rhythm to our moments.

On Saturday Carl and I sat across from one another at our table.

He had showered after his Saturday morning basketball game,

Caleb had bid farewell to a sleepover pal and I slept as long as possible

and made the bed 🙂

We sat with cups of coffee and tea.

I tend to need more stuff and scattered before me were

a Bible, a study, a journal,

a few other books and lots of pens.

Carl had the huge book you see pictured above.

theology: the study of religious faith, practice, and experience;
especially :  the study of God and of God’s relation to the world

We have sat at this table hundreds of times.

We have consumed countless meals but regularly

we have come to this

table to spend time in God’s word,

to be anchored in our faith,

to find guidance,

comfort,

to learn lessons

and to seek truth.

When I snapped this picture, Carl was unaware because

he was immersed.

He was recalling and recounting his theology.

He was allowing himself to sit before God and

gather his system of beliefs at eye level.

Because some days hope seems a farther reach

than a week ago.

A week has passed since Carl’s sister Vickie died

so swiftly and without a whisper of warning.

We sat at the table to recover our systems and cling

to our theology.

The system we have surrendered our lives to is belief

in God,

the Creator,

the Sustainer of life

and the glue who tightly adheres all our crumbling bits.

We have learned to keep our hearts and ears open this week

and discovered abiding comfort.

It’s been found in the “crowd sourcing” of Facebook.

We’ve seen it in the way family and friends love us in their

own special blend of thoughtfulness.

The pages of Scriptures where we landed

these past days have encouraged us that one day Christ will

wipe away every tear and there will be

no more death,

no more caskets,

no more sickness

and no more crying.

(One day.)

We heard words declared from a video describe the

sounds of the cries of death in a hospital.

We remembered.

(God knew.)

Last Sunday we exchanged our church seats for ones in a hospital

but this week we resumed our  pew dwelling  and these were the

first words uttered by our pastor:

“This week, you might be facing a scary time.

It could be the day before a memorial service or a graveside service…”

God knew sitting in pews could never protect us from last Sunday.

But He promised to remain no matter where we sat,

be it a table,

a pew

or even a hospital.

So we rose from our pew

and sidled up to the Table filled with the knowledge that

Jesus bore all our sufferings.

We chew and sip at the Table’s edge because He

is acquainted with sorrow and joins us in our aches

and pains.

Each table has become a place where God hears the

splash of tears upon our cheeks and dispatches

His comfort and often it is through others.

We all have systems.

Whatever system you have in place,

I hope it is effective when life quakes.

I am realizing it is very simple,

there is belief and disbelief and each

is a theology.

Whatever your theology,

I pray it brings comfort

and hope in any season.

This week has shown me when

hard events come we still brush our teeth (good thing),

we make our beds,

we make French toast, steal an extra

piece of bacon, pet the dog and

clean up our messes.

Mostly.

We also hug and kiss a little more.

We say I love you and catch ourselves when

we realize our system has been to rush past

each other in a blur so instead

we stop,

capture one another’s eyes

to affirm our affections

and glory in our mutual comfort.

 

non-negotiables

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The Portland Trailblazers playoff game against the Houston Rockets

went into overtime, pushing our “required” viewing of

The Good Wife until past bedtime.

I know, deeply difficult problems.

Monday morning would arrive sooner than we would desire

but despite this inevitability Carl and I began our routine.

I have discovered any morning but especially Monday morning

is made more manageable with a non-negotiable in place.

We always tidy our living room and if need be, our kitchen before lights out.

Most nights, I estimate the whole process takes less

than 5 minutes.

But those 300 seconds are key when faced with heavy-lidded eyes and bed

hair the next morning.

There are any number of routine things we do each day…

shower, brush our teeth, make our beds, or kiss our loved ones

goodbye as we part company.

It’s quite simple.

We put away what doesn’t belong in the space and straighten up

what should inhabit the surroundings.

(Oh the spiritual connotations in the above sentence,
but I will refrain to keep this post within 500 words. Sigh.)

A toss of the pillow here and a newspaper filed away there.

An empty mug is sent off to the dishwasher and ottomans

which earlier propped tired legs are stowed away.

Half read books may be closed or taken by the hand

to be consumed under covers.

We didn’t always have this routine in place.

We had years of babies and unbending schedules which

meant we didn’t waste a moment picking up the aftermath

of the day before limping towards our mattress.

Life remains busy but I never regret those few minutes

at night ushering me into the freshness of a new day.

I don’t have to clear a space to sit on a couch or chair

to read.

I’m not kicking plates full of the crumbs from the snacks

of a day ago.

In many ways it helps put yesterday in the past and

embrace the day presented before me.

We have never discussed this “ritual” but as Carl and I have

practiced it nightly, we have observed our kids observing

the same routine.

Well, most of the time, with the exception of discarded shoes!

All I know is it has become a non-negotiable part of our nighttime habits,

not in the way of a mandate but a pursuit aimed towards

drawing tranquility into a day not yet born.

Our desire for our home is to be a sanctuary of rest,

a haven of peace.

When pillows are fluffed and furniture is set right,

we walk into order and not chaos.

Let chaos ensue when we cross the threshold to

the world or get behind the wheel 😉

What non-negotiable actions do you practice which

deposits peace into your life?

Or is it time to add one into your days or nights?

This week, I am going to share a couple of my

non-negotiable habits that help me exhale deeper.

Happy last day of April and if you live in Portland,

you might think it is the last day of August,

there’s a mini heat wave brewing here!

What can you do in 5 minutes or less to 

enhance the day to come?

Do it!