Writing lists is on my to do list.
The practice of list writing has been so life changing, especially in this season, that I keep coming up with new list writing prompts. Aside from the usual TO DO list, (which by the way, is the only thing that has motivated me to move at all since the beginning of March) I’ve made lists of what I’m longing for, and lists of my favorite things. (Remember that song? Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens?) “When the dog bites, when the bee stings; when I’m feeling sad; I simply remember…”
Lists help me remember.
Nightly #countingitalljoy gratitude lists remind me to purposely look for joy throughout the day. I’ve found list making to be a tremendous help during this strange time of feeling like the world (including me) has gone stark raving mad.
Emily P. Freeman, author of The Next Right Thing, encourages her readers to keep a different sort of list, one that will change according to the season of life you’re in. It’s a way of making peace with the present and therefore being present. She calls it “These are the days of…” fill in the blank with your current experience of work, family, recreation, and spiritual life.
This is maybe my favorite list of all, because it helps me celebrate the good things and remember that the hard things are (hopefully) not forever. Here’s my current list:
These are the days of…
Stepping up my care-giving skills
One thing you will never hear come out of my mouth is the phrase: “I should have been a nurse.” Clearly, caregiving is not my strong-suit, but I’m learning. In the past four years, I’ve had ample opportunities to be schooled in the art, and I’m coming to see, it is an art. Providing physical care takes me back to my early mothering years, when I had three babies in three years. Being needed every minute of every day was exhausting for this young mom and left me feeling depleted and longing for alone time. Now that the kids are grown and my husband and I are in the “golden years,” ( the years you give all your gold to your doctor) our bodies have lost some of their luster; caregiving is, well, a given.
What I’m learning is it’s better to anticipate than to react, mostly because I tend to overreact and not in an admirable way. If I anticipate my husband’s needs, it relieves him from feeling like he’s nagging or a burden and helps me feel more like Florence Nightinga….. hold on, it’s time for Roger’s pills.
Ok, I’m back. These are also the days of:
Praying simple prayers
This is not the season of long-winded prayers; I don’t have the words or the energy. In times like this when it feels like the whole world is on fire and there’s a leak in the hose, all I know to pray is, “Lord have mercy.” If I’m feeling really chatty, I might follow that up with, “Christ, have mercy.” I feel no need to apologize for my brevity. The bigger the need, the shorter my prayer. Amen.
Being outta’ my head
After a lifetime lived in my head, a life of reading, writing, being introspective, words swirling around my brain, (sooo many words) you may have noticed I’ve grown quiet. Fewer blog posts, less social media posting. It seems the older I get the less I have to say! But can I tell you, what a blessing its been. It began in January when I chose two words for the year (really, they chose me) “curious and explore.” My writing felt like it was drying up and I thought that doing something creative with my hands might help. I took up watercolor and haven’t looked back. Not only did I discover a latent talent, I found peace and permission to play.
Practicing “Benevolent Detachment”
It took a lifetime for me to learn that not only can I not fix anybody (including myself), it’s not my job. Who knew? This is a revelation that could have saved me and all my fixee’s untold grief. Benevolent detachment is a phrase created by John Eldrege, as described in his latest book, “Get Your Life Back.” The basic idea is, as Elsa from Frozen says, “Let it go.” When it all gets too heavy to bear, when you feel helpless to make anything better, (for yourself or for others), simply open your hands and say, “Lord, I release everything and everyone to you.” Repeat as necessary. Then go back to work.
Learning what I love
I know… how can you not know what you love?! I mean, I do know but lately I’m learning how much I love certain things. A couple of weeks ago I started a new daily practice of using an art journal. Each day after my quiet time, I jot down quotes, thoughts, scriptures, lists, etc., and then I paint (or attempt to paint—I’m new at this whole painting thing) what I’m feeling. Here’s the cool part: a theme begins to emerge, as well as certain color palettes. (Also, I’m learning that I’m terrible at lettering.)
So, here’s what happens: I plop down some paint, sqoosh (is that a word? I feel like it is) it around and more often than not, the shape reminds me of (ok – not telling, but here’s a hint: my favorite watercolor shades are perylene green and green gold) and that’s what I end up painting. I believe that the theme that’s emerging is God’s way of saying, “Pay attention to what fuels your soul.”
I see you nodding your head. Here’s a verse I’ve read a lot lately: “How long O Lord?”
- will we have to wear masks?
- until there’s a vaccine for Covid?
- until we can safely gather in church again?
- will our country be divided into angry factions?
- until things are normal?
- until this heartsick feeling goes away?
- until You return?
There are eleven “how long O lord?” verses but my favorite is from Psalm 6. “How long, O Lord, until you restore me? Return, O Lord and rescue me. Save me because of your unfailing love.”
There it is… that’s the hope we have in this uncertain time: His unfailing love.
The Hebrew word ‘return’ here is shuwb: return, recall, recompense, recover, refresh, reieve, render, requite, rescure, restore, retrieve, reverse, reward…all of these “re-words” speak of His unfailing love. How amazing that in this one beautiful Hebrew word we have God’s own list of how He loves us! There’s the certainty we’re all looking for.
Become a list writer.
Friends, I encourage you to become a list writer. Buy a little notebook or open up a new folder on your phone—whatever works for you, but make your own list or lists. Write a list of all the ways the Father has shown you His unfailing love? Make list writing a part of your daily ritual. It’s a wonderful way to keep in touch with your soul, encourage yourself, and to set your mind on things above. You’ll find, like I did, that list writing can truly be life changing.