Another Work Tip: “Just Five”

Sometimes when I feel overwhelmed, I tell myself, “Just Five.” In order to feel successful in a task before me, I say things like this: I will grade just five papers. I will tidy this room for just five minutes. I will write just five sentences. I will walk outside for just five minutes. I will plan meals for the week for just five minutes.

I think anyone can handle five minutes. At least that’s the amount that doesn’t overwhelm me. Seven would. Ten would. But five? I can do five of anything. The benefit of this “Just Five” campaign for myself is that I always do more. I’ll probably grade up to twelve projects this morning once I get going. I’ll end up cleaning the entire room. I’ll write a whole chapter. I’ll walk for an hour. I’ll finishing meal-planning. You start with just five, and then you keep going if you wish. I’ve learned that once I get going, I keep going. But you don’t have to. You don’t have to at all. That’s the power of Just Five. You allow yourself to feel like a success if you accomplish that little thing.

Sometimes Just Five leads to bigger things. Sometimes it doesn’t. The important thing? You did something hard. You overcame the inertia, the procrastination, the pain of it. And you did it. For Just Five, you did it.



Today I thought about the wisdom to behave in ways consistent with the person you would like to be.

I’ve learned to ask these kinds of questions (and imagine hypothetical scenarios) to build consistency of character:

How would a healthy person act right now? What would they do? How would a godly person behave in this setting? What choice would the godliest person I know make? How would a kind or helpful person act in this setting? How would the best leader I know act here? What would a curious, confident, or successful person do in this situation?

Imagine the best version of yourself or the kind of person you’d like to become. What if you made decisions now to act like this person, to think and behave in ways consistent with this person’s character?

It’s a fun mental exercise that often changes your mindset when faced with a challenge or temptation.


A Great Deal of Living

This morning a friend mentioned the wonderful hymn writer Frances Havergal (who I wrote about in 2018). I searched the internet to learn more about her, and I discovered many words of wisdom from this godly woman. Here are my favorites:

“In perplexities-when we cannot tell what to do, when we cannot understand what is going on around us, let us be calmed and steadied and made patient by the thought that what is hidden from us is not hidden from Him.”

Frances Ridley Havergal

A great deal of living must go to a very little writing.

Frances Ridley Havergal

“We give thanks often with a tearful, doubtful voice, for our spiritual mercies positive, but what an almost infinite field there is for mercies negative! We cannot even imagine all that God has allowed us not to do, not to be.”

Frances Ridley Havergal

These three quotes teach me so much: I love considering that “what is hidden from us is not hidden from Him.” I love thinking about the slow task of writing and how, only after so much living, can the text come. I also love thinking about “mercies negative” and how much God has not allowed me to do or be out of His goodness to me.


A Good Day’s Work

I love to work. And then I love it when the work ends. What does it look like to put in a good day’s work and then allow yourself the pleasure of rest? I know many people who don’t stop working. They wait till they collapse in exhaustion, and then they wake up and start work all over again.

In graduate school, I remember learning how to survive: the solid eight hour work day. That’s it. Eight hours. Then, you rest. You sleep. You cook a good meal, you watch a show, you take a walk, you go out with friends. As I neared my dissertation writing process, a mentor said that you really only have about four hours worth of creative work available in your brain. After four hours, creativity wanes, fatigue sets in, and it’s so much harder to work. “So stop working after four hours,” he said. I couldn’t believe it. Four hours?

He was right. I accomplished so much in those four hours.

Sometimes, a good day’s work is four hours of focus; sometimes it’s eight or more. But at some point, you close down the shop and you rest.


The Sharing of Recipes

I’m thankful for the sharing of great recipes. My friend tells me I must make a butternut squash manicotti. I might make some version of this but will most likely use boxed manicotti or large shells.

I do love asking friends if they’ve tried any new recipes. It’s always a wonderful conversation that connects us to hearth and home, to simple pleasures, and to the joy of nourishing others.


The Quotes You Keep in Your Purse

Sometimes at speaking events, I’ll mention the quotes I’ve kept in my purse or on my phone. I tell the audience how certain quotes ground you on unsteady days.

During the book signing time, a woman approached my table with a weathered piece of paper, crumpled and even smeared with the dough from pie crust she once made.

“This is the one I keep in my purse,” she said. She leaned down to me. She didn’t speak, but she carefully unfolded the piece of paper (gently, like it was precious silk) and let me read it. And I knew that this was a life that needed this quote. I imagined her story. I held her life in my heart.

Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.

Kay Warren in Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn’t Enough

When you travel to speak, you meet amazing and fascinating people. Most of all, you meet women who have suffered greatly who confide in you–who whisper their stories of pain and triumph in Christ–and who lean in to hug you and tell you how the Lord has sustained them. Bible verses, quotes, treasured wisdom, timely provision, miraculous answers to prayer: I hear it all and soak it in. What a privilege! I didn’t know that writing books would lead to this kind of ministry.

There’s something about the way this woman held onto this quote (and the pie dough staining it) that kept me smiling all day long. I imagined that day she made a pie and needed this quote by her side. What was happening? What sorrow, what trial? And why the pie? Was it a pie to comfort someone else? I woke up this morning thinking about her and her whole life. I thought of her settled assurance, her quiet confidence, and her determined choice.

And it all became mine, too.


First Little Dusting

It always feels a little magical when you wake up to snow. Even a little snow–like this first dusting–brings back the joy of a childhood always waiting for snow in the wintertime.

I love looking up into the streetlights to check for signs of snowfall in the cold, dark evening. I love watching the swirl of snowfall that transforms the neighborhood into a snow globe. I love the contrast of cold, white snow outside and the warm lights of a cozy living room. I love coming in from snow–the hot cocoa, the steaming soup, and the soft blankets and slippers. Then, I love going out into snow–the sharp inhale of freezing air, the blackness of the trees, and the soft compression of it under my boots. I love winter animal tracks after a fresh snowfall in the forest and the whispery, tinkling sound of snow falling there.


Remember Gratitude

If you don’t know where to start when talking to God, remember gratitude. I love writing down all the things I’m thankful for. It cultivates a happy heart. I especially love thanking God for things that seem disappointing, painful, or hard because it demonstrates faith in God’s goodness and sovereignty.

I run through the day I’ve had so far. I talk to God and thank Him for so many things.


Everything You Need

This morning as I prayed for my children, the same verse kept resonating in my mind. It brought such comfort to my soul and provided a rich promise. In 2 Peter 1:2-4, we read this:

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

2 Peter 1:2-4

I returned to the phrase “everything we need.” Joy filled my heart as I considered that God gives us everything we need. We have everything we need to live the life God asks us to live. This godly life depends upon divine power–which leads us to remember the Holy Spirit’s unlimited power available to us–and allows us to “participate in the divine nature.”

Can you imagine? Do you have chills? God is making us more like Him right now and enabling us to participate is His divine nature. This divine nature brings up so many wonderful ideas: we live a life of divine love, divine power, divine mercy, divine wisdom, divine peace, and divine joy. May we grow more and more into this divine nature.