We don’t have to look very far to see what’s going wrong. It all feels heavy, dire and needs to be fixed as soon as possible.
Where do we start? Who do we help? What can we possibly do to make a small dent for good in this gut-wrenching broken world? Would it even make a difference?
We often fall into the trap of two not-so-helpful choices:
…draining what little time and energy we have getting stuck trying to figure out what is most crucial
…crumpling under the sheer magnitude of all the horror.
There’s a third option. A much better one: make the world a better place because we are in it. Plain and simple.
It REALLY does NOT matter what we choose to invest ourselves in. We might care about clean water for the planet, special education needs in our communities, or our child struggling with normal every-day life.
It can be a big-world, local community or one-person issue. We, all by our sweet selves, can be a powerful force for good.
We’ve already done it thousands of times, most of it small and seemingly insignificant: a smile, a hug, a word of encouragement, a meal made, a listening ear, a thoughtful gift.
No, we can’t do everything. But we can do something. And that is lots better than doing nothing.
You see, all those tiny, supposedly inconsequential moments of good grow into the huge life stories of hope, change and restoration.
The good beats back the bad one choice at a time, one person at a time. It’s not insignificant after all. It’s essential.
I’m not sure where your passion lies, what sets your soul on fire, what your heart longs to see restored.
Be encouraged, my friend.
Your “cup of water” for one “thirsty” person will send ripples of life-changing goodness into the world. Trust the ripple.
17,000,000. The number of apps to manage to-do lists.
TOP priority. Get ‘er done.
The feeling of accomplishment.
Promised peace at the end of the day when it’s all crossed off.
I was trained from a bitty girl to spend time at the day’s end confessing my sins out loud and asking God for forgiveness. “I’m sorry I lied.” “I’m sorry I said mean things to my friend.”
No matter how much good I had given to the world, my final thoughts as I said my bedtime prayers were how I had MESSED UP and what I had NOT done well and who I had offended (in many cases, this happened to be the God of the universe…yikes). NO peace for sure.
Fast-forward to my adult years. Same. Same. Same. Just different stuff. “I’m sorry I screamed at my kids.” “I’m sorry I took a too-long lunch at work.”
One night, my little rebellious self changed it up. “What did you do right today?” I quizzed my husband as we collapsed into bed after wrangling four kids into their beds.
“I smiled at the store clerk,” he mumbled at long last.
I shook my head. I knew he had probably been kind, sought justice, served those he worked with, treated everyone with dignity and respect, along with all the daunting tasks he had crossed off his “to-do” list.
Realizing how much of our day (and night) was taken up with negative thinking, we decided to make this a best practice in the moments before we fell into slumber. “What did you do right today?”
We still began our days with a “to-do” list, but we ended them with a “ta-da” list.
It was STILL NOT the peace we were looking for, but at least a step in the right direction.
Help came in the form of what usually happened right before we crawled into bed, wiped out from the day.
Most nights, the last thing on my never-ending “to-do” list was to slip into each of my kids’ rooms and just watch them sleep (something I still do from time-to-time, even though they are giants at this point).
No matter what had happened during the day, both good and bad, it didn’t seem to matter any more. I would just stand there, gazing at their cute little heads barely visible above their comforters, completely and utterly in love with them, happy.
Yes. Yes. This must be how God feels about us.
While the “to-do” lists and “ta-da” lists matter to us, they don’t seem to matter much to Him.
At BOTH the beginning and end of each day (regardless of either of those lists), he gently reminds us, “I will quiet you with my love. I will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah)
I’m tripping over them. I’m listening to them crackle down from the trees.
Acorns are falling. Everywhere.
I believe wrong things. The myth of scarcity is one of them. It pours into my newsfeed. My television streams it. It permeates conversations. My own thoughts teem with it. Many of my decisions are made because of it.
And it’s downright wrong. A lie.
The myth of scarcity is the idea that there isn’t enough to go around. The world (and the God who created it) is lacking the resources to meet my needs. There’s not enough _______ (fill in the blank) for me and those I love.
At its root (at least for me) is the MEAN monster of fear. And as I know better than I would like to admit, fear strangles and enslaves me.
My reaction to its demands cause me to hoard, fret, close up and off, control, and protect myself physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
Just look at the last six months. Hand sanitizer. Frozen vegetables. Wipes.
Acorns speak something completely different. As I unwittingly get “bonked” on the head by one of these brown nuggets for soon-to-be-hibernating creatures, I am not-so-gently reminded.
When I fret over the lack of ________ in my world, and in my own little family, copious acorns point out a better and truer reality.
NOT LACK. ABUNDANCE.
NOT SCARCITY. OVERFLOWING.
God is enough. God has enough.
In fact, God is MORE than enough. And God has MORE than enough.
Last night, I was sucked back to the myth. I started looping around about the LACK of a job for my husband. Possible LACK of money. LACK of security.
Quickly, my thoughts turned to how can I make this okay. What scheme can I come up with to get some money into our pockets? HOW DO I FIX THIS?
(You know the drill! You have your own 2 am thoughts.)
As I let our dog out today, I saw acorns strewn all over our walkway.
“Gotcha, God.” I mumbled under my breath.
No LACK with YOU. Only ABUNDANCE.
No SCARCITY with YOU. Only FULLNESS to OVERFLOWING.
Acorn. Acorn. Acorn.
They will keep falling. There will be MORE than enough.
It doesn’t matter what the job front looks like right now. It doesn’t matter what our bank account looks like. It doesn’t matter if our funds are all “safe and sound.”
God’s got all the “acorns” in the world. And He’s got some for me.
“I miss you, Mom.” If I see this, or hear this, I am a puddle.
I know. I know. It might mean, “I miss your meals. I miss you folding my clothes.”
What I secretly hope is that it means they miss my good mom love for them. There’s nothing like a mom’s love, right?
But what does that even mean?
Protecting them? Feeding them (way too many meals a day in my opinion)? Keeping them safe?
Granting them freedom? Freaking out inside when they hop behind the wheel of a car? Letting them make mistakes?
This mom gig is hard.
It’s a very tricky tight rope to walk. It’s more nuanced than some quick A+B=C equation. Beyond COMPLICATED!
If I protect them at all costs, I might suffocate and smother them, not allowing them to become themselves. NOT GOOD.
If I grant them unlimited freedom, they might feel uncared for and unsafe, and very unloved. ALSO NOT GOOD.
So what’s a mom to do? How do I best love them?
Maybe I don’t have to choose either or. Total SAFETY or total FREEDOM.
And maybe it’s A LOT about how I make them feel inside.
Maybe it’s about them knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt they belong to me, no matter what they do. They are grounded, or rooted, in that place, whether they are 10 feet from me in their childhood bedroom or they are 1,000 miles away in their new apartment.
AND maybe, just maybe, it’s about them also knowing they’ve got what it takes to sprout internal wings, and I’ve given them complete freedom to become all that they were designed to be (as messy as that process is).
It doesn’t seem to matter if they are 2 or 22.
It takes lots of mom time and energy (and a lot of asking God) to make all these decisions with wisdom, not to smother, but to give proper roots, AND to know when and how and why to lovingly “kick them out of the nest” to soar to heights way beyond my mom imagination.
DO check in on me and all my feelings, even if they seem crazy.
DON’T try to convince me who to vote for. I will be spending lots of time (doing research and on my knees) figuring that out for myself.
DO respect my boundaries about no-right-answer decisions. DO cheer for me when I decide what I think is safe or risky. Some things might still FREAK me out and I can’t get “there” yet.
DON’T have a secret agenda to change me or my mind. Just be with me in the middle of the mess.
DO tell me why you are making your choices. I love knowing you, even and especially if you are completely different from me.
DON’T tell me I’m nuts, even if I am that minute. Just give me a virtual hug over ZOOM.
DO keep our relationship paramount. I will be here when we’ve moved beyond all of this.
DON’T yell in the comment section on social media. Also, DON’T post political things. At least not in my news feed. I want to hear about your kids, your pets, your latest adventures and even cute memes that make me laugh or help me cope. I am happy to have a one-on-one conversation with you about all that’s clogging the news.
DO understand that I am trying really hard to navigate the complexity of this with as much bravery and wisdom as I can muster, keeping grace for you and me at the forefront. I might screw this up some days.
DON’T be afraid to tell me how much it all SUCKS right now.
DO help me stay grounded (when I’m pouring over “the numbers”), but also help me gain freedom (at my turtley pace except for when I’m a hare). Holding onto and speaking HOPE works great here.
DON’T be afraid to tell me how much FUN you are having right now.
DO take me into consideration when you act. You know, that whole “love your neighbor as yourself” thing.
DON’T keep silent about how much you miss me. You can even cry. I might cry right back.
DO be true to yourself. Let me be true to myself too.
DON’T try to make me happy and put yourself in an uncomfortable position (see #13). It’s really okay to maintain your own boundaries, even if it’s super hard.
DO feel free to change your mind, any time you want. The world is changing at break-neck speed. You just might have to as well. We both might.
**17 is a weird number, so I will make it 18 (#noprimenumbers)**
One final and big DO. DO pray for me. A lot. There’s this Presence with a big giant capital P “up there” who has us and knows us and holds us. Plus, it’s hard to pray for me and be against me at the same time. I like when we’re in this human race thing together, on the same side, helping each other out and all that good stuff.
FRAUGHT. Adj. (of a situation or course of action) filled with or likely to result in (something undesirable).
THIS IS OUR LIFE right now. NO clear answers, much less any that we like.
Should I send my kids to school in person, online or homeschool?
How should I respond if someone puts their hand out to shake mine?
How can I safely see my aging parents? Should I quarantine? For how long? What does that even mean?
What do I do at work when someone comes in without a mask on?
When should I plan that dentist visit?
How do I respond with my friends, online, on the news, with my family when other people are not making the same choices as me?
Should I have friends over? Inside? Where will they go to the bathroom?
Is it okay to serve at the soup kitchen? How close will I have to get to the other volunteers?
YUP. We are FRAUGHT.
Whatever decision we make is likely to result in something undesirable.
So what are we to do to have PEACE in the middle of it all?
DISCLAIMER: I’m on the same struggle bus sitting 6 feet away from you with my mask on. We are here kind of socially-distanced together, high-fiving and cheering each other along on this bumpy, twisty ride.
Okay. Back to our regularly-scheduled programming.
I had one of these FRAUGHT-FILLED decisions just this weekend. I was officiating a small wedding and I suddenly remembered I was going to have to talk to people. The bride. The groom. The wedding coordinator. The parents. The little cute kids wandering around. I’d always done it with ease and now it was complicated. FRAUGHT!
Will they think I am rude? Should I stand six-feet away from them? What if someone is immunocompromised and I have no clue? What if they want me close to them?
I would love to tell you that I knew exactly what to do and how to do it and that I was super confident in my decisions ahead of time. HAHAHA. NOPE!
I reverted to all those things I normally do.
I asked my husband what to do.
I wrung my hands.
I called an officiant friend for his advice.
I freaked out a little inside.
But then, I had to get out of the car. I had to make my decisions. The wedding was upon me.
I put on my big girl pants (I mean dress in this case) and I did what I knew to be my own best practices.
JUST DO THE VERY NEXT THING. I am not in any kind of position to plan ahead because my world is changing at break-neck speed. Don’t add anything extra to my plate right now. Add my best version of LOVE into the mixture and trust it will be really okay in the end.
DIG DEEPER TO FIND OUT WHAT IS GOING ON BENEATH THE SURFACE. Is it fear? Is it bad boundaries? Is it people-pleasing? Is it comparison? Maybe it’s something good. Faith? Good boundaries? Being true to myself? Take a minute to listen.
WATCH HOW MY BODY RESPONDS TO EACH OPTION. Do I tense up or do I sigh with at least some measure of relief? Check myself again and again until I sense which direction my body is sending me.
SINK DOWN INSIDE OF MYSELF WHERE GOD DWELLS. He is filled wisdom and love, goodness and life, healing and hope and SO AM I. Trust my God-filled gut.
GIVE MYSELF PERMISSION TO CHANGE MY MIND. The decisions I make do not have power over me. I have power over them. There is not one right one choice and everything will go to “hell in a hand-basket” if I make the wrong one. Change is often a good thing. It means I am learning and growing.
Yes. I am FRAUGHT. I certainly was this weekend and will be again for the foreseeable future. So are you. We all are. It’s a perfect word for the times we are living in. NO GOOD OPTIONS.
But good options are not the dictator of whether we have PEACE. Peace comes from within, not from without. Nothing has the right to steal it away from us. NO ONE. NO THING.
We need PEACE so very desperately because it’s our GUIDE, our HOPE and FRIEND.
And it’s ours for the taking because, after all, the very Source of PEACE is with us and for us and around us and IN US.
So struggle-bus companions, let’s keep asking for and giving ourselves the gift of peace. The unexplainable, undeniable PEACE that is rightfully ours, if I may say so myself.
How did you feel, LITTLE ANT, the day your world was turned upside-down, the day I moved the huge rock that your whole little life revolved around and was protected by just so I could build a rock wall to line the fence in my yard?
How did you feel?
Maybe you felt…
CONFUSED. You were scampering along, working hard to take care of your family, happily doing what you were supposed to do. Suddenly, you found yourself exposed to a world you’d never known. Maybe you asked yourself, “What the heck just happened? Why oh why?” I don’t blame you. I would feel the same way.
Maybe you felt…
ANGRY. I know you did because you bit me, at least three times. I felt it sharply under my pants just moments later. You know what? I would bite me too. Maybe it was all your little self could do to yell, “THIS IS NOT RIGHT! SEND ME BACK TO THE WAY IT WAS!”
Maybe you felt…
OUT-OF-CONTROL. After all, life as you knew it had just changed forever. All those systems that you had put in place to make your little life easier and more predictable blew to bits. Your formula for how the world works and works well was upended, to say the least. When I ventured back to check on you, I saw a whole bunch of you just scurrying around, looking like you didn’t know what to do next.
Maybe you felt…
AFRAID. Who wouldn’t? I sure would. Would some giant ant-eater come out of the woods and gobble you up? Would your life ever look remotely the same as it had before the rock was taken away? Would your ant family be okay with this new normal? Would you be able to find another rock?
Maybe you felt…
SAD. Some of your family and friends were just taken away from you, some never to be seen again and some that you don’t know when you will see again, eat with, play with and work with. It’s just horrible, my little ant friend. Just horrible. It’s not really supposed to be this way and I’m so sorry what happened is putting you through this. I would just stop right now and cry the tears that are rightfully yours.
Maybe one day, LITTLE ANT, you will have a whole new world, one where you will be working, taking care of your family, busily at peace and full of new adventures. Yes. I bet it will happen soon enough.
But for now, my new found friend, I get it. I get you.
I’m with you and I AM you, more than you will ever know.