We talk about sounds we love over dinner. It’s a great conversation question. My youngest begins this discussion when she proclaims, out of the blue, “I love the sound the knife makes as it butters crisp toast!”
I post on Facebook this conversation in order to report that I love when the sound when things click together like seat belts. Others join in to announce their favorite sounds: squeaking doors of chicken coops, dial-up modems, rain on roofs, laughter, fishing rods, even the word, “Yes!” Rustling leaves, birds, sounds of things opening like library books with their plastic covers and cans.
I love a little sound therapy. Just thinking about my favorite sounds soothes me. I think of ocean waves, wind in the trees at night, owl hoots, and the sound of the car turning off to signal that someone I love has arrived home.
I even chose this keyboard because of the sound of the keys when I type.
Oh, the sounds!
This morning, I walked the children to school for the last official time.
I can’t believe it: 8 years of walking!
I don’t linger on the ending of it all for long. I call my friend and muse about what’s next.
What kind of gathering could naturally bring neighbors together for a crucial connection–no matter how brief–each day. What else could we do? What’s next? Over the years, we’ve had pancake breakfasts, writing groups, Neighborhood Fitness, Monday Night Basement Dance Party, potlucks, service projects. . .
What’s next? I’m praying about some new ideas for neighborhood fun. Maybe I’ll offer pie night once a week and everyone comes for my coconut cream pies. Maybe, like my friend Rob suggested, we’ll start a French Salon Night for intellectual discourse. We’ll just pose some interesting, generous questions and talk about ideas.
Maybe I’ll combine the two: Pies and Pondering.
Who knows what’s next?
Today I recall Oswald Chambers’ phrase “Gracious Uncertainty” and how he discusses how we are certain in our uncertainty because of God. He writes, “We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God.”
I like to remember that when I feel uncertain in a decision or in my circumstances, I can be certain of God’s unchanging character and ability to guide, protect, and provide wherever I am. God’s activity in my life doesn’t depend upon my ability to know anything with certainty. Chambers advises, on uncertain days, to surrender to God and just do the next, closest thing. He say, “As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task He has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises.” Chambers uses the language of spontaneous, joyful, expectant uncertainty.
It’s a reframing of what causes us so much stress and anxiety. What if we delighted in uncertainty? That’s a different way of living with flair for me. When I feel like I must be certain about this or that thing–and begin to shake under all that’s unknown or unplanned–I remember that when I am uncertain of myself, I am certain of God.
Today I confess how critical I’ve been, and how easy to find fault I am.
I pray that I’m full of the same grace, mercy, and love that God shows me each day.
I’m learning to listen for whether or not people share healing stories of abundance and hope or deprivation stories of loss and despair. I’m wondering what it means to invite people to tell more healing stories of where they have found love and beauty and abundance. The more people I talk to and learn from, the more I’m finding that people who choose to find fulfillment in what they’ve been given–instead of living in what has been lost or is missing–makes all the difference.
But how do they do this? By what power? It seems like a grand mystery, a secret, a marvelous transcendence. I listen to what I’m reading in the Bible and those who “have learned the secret of being content in all circumstances” and I find great encouragement when I see people who tap into the power of God in their lives, no matter how disappointed they might feel in the quiet of their honest heart.
Sometime in the last decade, I moved from a deprivation mindset to an abundant one. There was just so much here each day. There was too much joy, wonder, and mystery to contain. Even this morning, my friend arrives, and I blurt out, “There’s so much here! I have hummingbirds and climbing roses. There’s so much here.”
There’s so much right here.
After church today, we talk about the sermon on being a good neighbor. It occurs to me that being a good neighbor starts with our interaction within the home.
We talk about what this love means:
acting with kindness,
looking for ways to be helpful,
noticing pain or sadness,
serving without hope of reward,
having the interests and well being of others be as important as our own,
and speaking with lovely, excellent language that leads people toward God.
Maybe the reason so many of us fail to love our neighbors outside of our home is because we can hardly do so within our home. I remind my daughters that being a good neighbor begins right here and moves outward from what we’ve already been practicing.
Oh, this little microcosm of a home, this little world! If we learn here how to love well, there’s hope for us all!
In Psalm 4:4, we’re instructed this way: “When you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.”
I remember how Libby Miller from Camp Greystone taught the young campers how to go to sleep:
After the bugle played taps and camp was quiet, after the closing of the Bible and the prayer of thanks for the day, after snuggling in to the warm, soft blankets, you stay silent. It’s a time to search your heart.
You search for ways you’ve sinned and then ask for cleansing. You search for all the beautiful memories of the day you want to hold in your heart forever. You search for who needs prayer. You search for all God’s loving ways toward you. You think about Him. You search your heart, and fall asleep with Jesus. You feel clean, whole, and joyful.
Those summers were the best sleep of my life.
I teach my teen daughters Libby Miller’s words. There’s a different way to go to sleep. I remember tucking in those campers, and last night, I went back to the devotion, the prayer, and the searching of the heart.
We slept so well last night.
I’m having so much fun developing my favorite questions to use in coaching people to reach goals or to develop in some way. Twice this week, I used the question, “What allowed you to motivate yourself the last time you achieved a goal? What worked?”
I love this question because it alerts us to the conditions that were true the last time we were able to do something we were truly proud of—whether achieving a weight loss goal, meeting a writing deadline, or reaching some other personal development goal.
What was true the last time? What fostered success before? Can we do that again?
By looking at this question, I’ve realized how much I value committing to a schedule of work whether I’m motivated or in the mood. That works for me: it’s a kind of routine that I do whether or not I want to, like brushing my teeth or emptying the dishwasher or making my bed. I just do it without asking if I want to.
That’s one thing. But another thing is the role of encouragement. Every time I’ve finished a project or reached a fitness goal, there’s always been at least one person cheering me on and invested in my success. Isn’t that interesting to note? I work best with a success-maker beside me. This means I have to find that person and ask them to encourage me. Why not? I like to do this for other people, and I’m finding I have friends who like to do this in my life. This person either regularly asks how the project or goal is going, and they celebrate milestones, offer insight, and just care about what I’m doing.
Finally, I’ve learned that I love deadlines. I just love them! I need them! I invent them for no reason. They work for me, and I need to remember this. I just called my editor and asked for a firm deadline on this one proposal because I work best this way.
A schedule, a cheerleader, and a deadline. These work for me. I hope the question, “What worked the last time you were successful?” helps you think of what you need, too.
Maybe you need to revisit a dream you once had for your life.
Do you? Is today the day?
Today, my literary agency reminded me that once, long ago, I wrote all these novels. Why not try again? Why not pitch to new, different markets? Why not reconsider. You can write nonfiction and fiction. You don’t have to choose.
My sister says the same thing. Every few years, she’ll ask about this one novel and tell me to try again.
And I remember the words of poet Monique Duval:
“That’s the way it is with dreams. They scratch at your door. You see them through the peep hole: a stray dream looking for a home. You think it might go away if you ignore it. Wrong. It’s still there when you open the door, smiling. Wagging its tail.”
You think you can ignore your dream. You can’t! It’s there, wagging its tail.
What do you think? Maybe it’s time!
I was told on an overwhelming day to think of each day as a pearl you’re adding to a necklace. Each day, you make just one pearl.
I have no idea why this image brought me so much peace, but it did. I sat there and pictured my pearl.
You think of your life as this long thread. You don’t know what anything will look like in the end; you just string pearls day by day.
I heard this shortly upon returning home from the hospital with a new baby, and life suddenly seemed so overwhelming. I couldn’t think beyond the very next thing. Everything was a tangle. Everything inside of me felt like it was unraveling.
But then someone mentioned the thread and the single pearl.
You’re just living this one precious day, and tonight, you slip the pearl you made of the day onto your imaginary thread.
And you keep doing it until one day, your whole bejeweled life testifies to the thousands of days you sat holding a thread and adding the pearl.