I don’t know about you, but sometimes… I grow weary in well-doing. I’ve realized it isn’t actually the doing… it’s the reception of it. I feel like my work is worth something when it is received with gratitude and appreciation; but when my meals are met with whines or disenchantment, I mourn. And even get disgruntled deep down, because I feel like all of my good motivations and hard work— and good food— are just wasted.
Maybe that’s why this liturgy, found in Every Moment Holy, resonates so deeply. (The audio for this clip is not the whole thing, merely the beginning thoughts.) See, I need this prayer and reminder: that my meal planning and prep, my cooking and baking, my placing it on the table before my family is not just an act of service to them— but an act of worship to God.
And whereas one can argue that my children still need to work on thankfulness and the expression of it (they do 😂), I don’t need their approval of the main course or veggie side. It was and is worship— and God sees my work, even though He doesn’t need my meal to stave off His own hunger.
He takes and sees my offering.
And as the days pass, and I pray and cook, I have every hope that I am “an agent of a deep eternity, whose prepared meals might feed more than the body, nourishing also the hearts and hopes of those sometimes-weary souls who are well-served” by my labors.
Last month, when we visited the Log Cabin Village in Ft. Worth, TX, we saw— and picked up— a yoke. As the woman explained how a yoke works, I had so many thoughts. I think part of the whole thought shift was the fact that I never actually thought of yokes as being something people carried— I always thought of them as something oxen were strapped with. But as I saw my husband lifting the yoke up and over his shoulders, the woman explained how carrying buckets of water was really hard on not just the arms, but the hands. The muscles would get tired, and the rough rope would dig into the palms and fingers, making it painful to carry water for long.
And it dawned on me— that the yoke doesn’t actually take the burden away, or make it “lighter” in pounds. But when the burden is wrapped around a yoke— the yoke shoulders the brunt of it. It makes carrying the same amount of water much easier. It saves the weaker joints and the muscles and skin from the extreme exhaustion of the task.
Another thing about the burden of carrying water is that it wasn’t optional— water was something that HAD to be found and transported. The burden wasn’t optional. Water was life, and finding it and taking it back to people and animals and plants HAD to happen.
Isn’t that the truth about life? There are burdens that we simply must carry. Daily. As much as we would want to skip a day or a week or even all of our lives— we can’t. The burden must be borne.
If our burden must be carried, why? Why do we insist on having it dig deep, in a way God didn’t design for us? Jesus is offering a way— the Way— to make our burdens easier to bear. The burden might remain, even in the same amount.
But with Jesus, we can rest.
He bears the brunt. He takes on our weight for us and in the doing, saves us from the acute, painful task of trying to do it all alone. 💛
Once, several years ago— before marriage and babies— I found myself giving a 50 minute long one-woman show to an auditorium with over 500 people watching me. As if that wasn’t adrenaline-inducing enough, I had just stepped on the edge of my floor length skirt and felt the clasp in the back pull and undo.
That was fun.
I remember, continuing my performance, and simultaneously pleading for the Good Lord, in His mercy and goodness to prevent my skirt from completing its malfunction in front of everyone. That I could just do my “job,” without something very important falling down around me.
It’s an extreme AND completely real example. It’s one that I thought wouldn’t apply to me again very much at all in my life. But, man, was I wrong.
Here we all are, aren’t we? Just trying to do our “jobs”— trying to live and maybe tell our stories. We don’t want any extra drama. We don’t want anything more to think about because the job, though hopefully enjoyable , is still daunting enough. But then… we feel something begin to give way that shouldn’t. We suddenly shift into worry and doubt and fervent prayer because we know, that just a little bit more… just another inch… just one more slight shift… and we will be vulnerable in ways we never, ever want to be.
IF my skirt had actually fallen down that day… if that whole auditorium had seen me, standing there, exposed in my undergarments and embarrassment… honestly, what would have happened? Okay, so I would have been completely mortified and would have wanted to claw up the floorboards of that stage in order to disappear… but besides that? What would have happened?
I wouldn’t have died, no matter how much I would have wanted to. I would have swallowed hard, and pulled my skirt up, made some comment to attempt to save face, and feel my cheeks grow hot. My throat might have almost closed from choking down the emotion of it all… and I might have even had to excuse myself before going back out and continuing where I left off.
That’s what would have happened. Because I needed to finish my job. Finish what I started. Tell the story that placed me on that stage in the first place.
I think, whether or not you have been on stage at all, you know exactly what it is like to be in the scenario I found myself. Life has taught you to be afraid that something horrible is going to derail what you are doing— and what you are doing is plenty enough already, thankyouverymuch. We are afraid to be left exposed and scrambling. We are petrified of our jobs being harder, our lives more complicated. We are scared of contingency plans and crisis modes and being distracted from what was **so carefully** planned, practiced, and rehearsed. And maybe, just maybe, we are worried about what people would say and think as they witness it all fall.
Hardship is so, well, hard to even think about. There’s a reason why those thoughts instantly drive us to worry— and hopefully and much better— prayer. The grand irony of it all is that we are just as much audience as performer. We watch others live all around us, and don’t think for one second that they are worried about their own wardrobes exposing them, or tripping on stage, or forgetting their lines. That they are just as afraid and vulnerable to messing up themselves. They seem to have it all together as they go along, while we feel like we just stumbling by. Honestly, shouldn’t we know better by now?
We know the truth. The fact that we are all actors should make us the most empathetic audience in the world. It is exactly because I know what it is like to imagine the worst case scenario (by almost being or ACTUALLY being in worst case scenarios) that I can lean into other’s experiences when their worst case scenario happens. It’s why we can join others in the uncomfortable, and not let our own awkwardness keep us from doing what is right. And what is right? Right is swallowing your own discomfort to make it easier for your friend or neighbor or fellow momma to pick up her skirt and her pride, swallow hard, and keep going when her world is falling apart.
Best of all, we don’t have to say and think anything beyond admiration and support— in whatever capacity we can.
Life itself is a stage, someone brilliant once said.
We are all players.
And in this global cast, faith, hope, and love is the obligation for all of us.
The weather is getting warmer, and the plants are making their way from the cups and little planters we started seeds in to our raised beds. Maybe I’m just getting old or maybe what excites me in my life has changed— probably both 😂— but gracious, I delight in seeing seedlings grow. Just little green bursts of friendly potential.
Watching my kiddos take pride in the plants is just another added privilege to see.
Behold, my buddy’s pea plant. 🙂
If you look at the picture above, you’ll see some mulch around the peas from a pile that we received for free from a company called Chip Drop (https://getchipdrop.com/). We went to the website, filled out our info and a few days later, a truck was dumping a huge mulch mountain in our front yard! We’ve placed it on our flower beds and in our raised beds as filler and enrichment.
It was completely free and convenient, and will be doing it again in the future, I’m sure.
Another way, besides gardening, that I’m enriching my own knowledge and experience is learning how to use “wild” and useful plants— for food, comfort, and wellness.
See, I didn’t grow up on a farm. I didn’t grow up learning about plants or animals, how to observe nature not just for its beauty, awe, and intricateness… but for how we can exist and be symbiotic with it— how it provides for us in unexpected places, and how we, in turn, can provide for it, too.
Here is a plant I never, ever knew was edible, and it grows in our shady spaces so incredibly well… hostas! Here was my first time, harvesting and cooking hosta from our yard! To my surprise, it cooks down and tastes very similarly to spinach. I’m researching other ways to use it in my cooking and meals… but I was thrilled to start here!
My daughter’s friend, P, was over while I was snipping the hostas and was still there as I finished cooking them and needed “taste-testers.” Three out of four kids lined up, and they each loved them! Later that day, I got a text from P’s mom, asking me about my “hosta recipe.”
And I laughed because not once ever in my life did I ever think I would have a hosta recipe, let along be asked for it.
Here’s to tasting food from our gardens and yards and learning about how to care for them well while learning how they can care for us.
If that’s not essential living, I don’t know what is. 💛
Wendell Berry once said, “You mustn’t wish for another life. You mustn’t want to be somebody else. What you must do is this: ‘Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks.’ I am not all the way capable of so much. But those are the right instructions.”
I don’t know about you, but there are some days that I just love where I’m at and what I’m doing. The moments seem light and joyful, and I feel perfectly placed in my life.
And there are days I don’t.
I can blame it on a lot of things: the news. My lists. The worries on my shoulders. Grief. Extra fighting from the kids. Exchanged sarcasm. The toddler climbing into bed because a storm ignited her fears… making us all restless. And squished. And sleep deprived.
But the fact of the matter is: the biggest hinderance to my own happiness is my disconnect to the command to give thanks.
You know the verse, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” We just like to slap those words on anything tricky that we need some extra diligence for… but what, specifically, is it referring to? Paul is referring to being content— in every circumstance. He says that he has learned to do it, no matter what. How? He can do it “through Christ,” who gave him strength *to give this thanks.*
What do you need to give thanks for? What gives your heart pause, just thinking about hoisting it to heaven with gratitude on your lips? I can think of a few things that I feel are just too hard, too sad, too hurtful for me to be thankful for… but fortunately, we don’t have to do it alone. We have a Helper to lift our offering high, and intercede with perfect words we have an impossible time finding.
He will give us strength.
Strength enough to offer gratitude…
and in the doing, we are placed in the perfect position to receive His grace.
And isn’t that something we can be oh so thankful for? 💛
For those of you who grow weary in well-doing sometimes– or easily get overwhelmed with the task of doing tasks without seeing the list grow smaller… this is a reminder:
It’s okay to let things go sometimes.
If there are certain things that you can’t *stand* being messy– as in, it wears on your mental or physical well-being– then by all means, keep doing those things. But others? It might just be okay to give them… space.
This quotation by Emily P. Freeman is talking about spiritual practices, but I’m going to apply it to the here and now…
“It’s not about what items on a [cleaning] checklist that we need to check off. In fact, if a [task] is causing you to experience shame, anxiety, tension, or overwhelm, I’d say that’s a practice you don’t need to be doing right now. It doesn’t mean the practice itself is bad or that you’ll never engage with it again, but anxiety in a practice is your body trying to tell you something. It could be an arrow to a wound. It may also be, and often is evidence of a season of growth or change, even though it probably doesn’t feel that way, but that could be what it is…
There is a true narrative and that is the stunning and relentless love God has for you. If a practice runs counter to that narrative, take a pause, take a break, take a breath and find a practice that reminds you of the love of God instead.”
For me, this means I can’t ignore my kitchen forever (nor do I want to)… but it does mean that it is better for me to ignore it until my soul is restored and I can clean it in a healthier space, instead of one of shame (“if you don’t clean this right away, you are lazy”) or anxiety (“I don’t want it to be a mess in case someone stops by”) or overwhelm (when I look around and let simple kitchen clutter upset me in ways that it shouldn’t). THAT is a sign: if the kitchen overwhelms me, that is because I am already overwhelmed, and I need to sit and deal with that before the dishes.
It’s hard for me to do… but I feel like it will lead to a much happier, healthier me, and actually give me the capacity to love my home better overall.
— If you are looking for a place to get ideas about how to love your home while still embracing grace in the grind, please head over to the FB group, Gathering Wellness. We choose a new topic each month to explore and right now we are in the middle of encouragement, conversations, etc., that are all about making our home a loving place for everyone to thrive in. 🙂
I was listening to a podcast the other day, and it was talking about the Daily Examen– what’s typically considered a spiritual practice of reflection by asking & answering a pattern of questions at the end of the day.
As I was listening, my thoughts connected that idea to my goal for the month of February– loving my home and making it easier for my family and I to love being in it. I’ll be honest; I am so thankful for my home… but the daily-ness of all the daily tasks that are also housed here overwhelm me at times. I like to do things and then move on the next thing and for projects to be “done…” but there’s nothing done about the bits of food that reemerge on the floor, or the dishes that reappear in the sink, or the laundry that regrows in our hampers. And sometimes, those things make me feel like I can’t actually do what I WANT to do in my home and with the people in it.
So this month, I’m reshaping my thoughts around my home, and finding better tools for me to love it better.
As I listened to the 5 steps of the Examen, my mind tweaked the points a bit… and I wanted to share them. You know, just in case someone else needs to regroup and offer a reminder of a bigger, lovelier picture.
1) Think back to your day and find the love that you had while at home. Was it something specific about a space? An item? A moment you had there? The people in it? Find a moment at home that brought you joy, for whatever reason.
2) Show gratitude for that moment. Offer thanks for it.
3) Allow yourself to feel whatever feelings arise after that. It “makes sense” that offering thanks would/”should” bring a positive emotion, but that might not always be the case. I can be thankful for a moment, and still feel a shadow that someone or something wasn’t in it. That’s okay to feel and to acknowledge.
4) Take that moment and pray from it, journal about it, process it.
5) Look ahead towards tomorrow. That might mean just having hope that tomorrow can offer the same experience… or it might mean making a mental action step about how to encourage the same type of moment. (For instance, if you realized that your morning was super peaceful because of waking up to clean surfaces and no dishes, maybe resolve to do that more often. No guilt or commitment attached– just an observation and maybe a thought to try it again.)
Anyhoo, taking time to think big picture and reflecting is huge for me– especially when I sometimes tend to make lists that feel too large and daunting OR even make it a measurement of my worth. Here’s to noting the love for and in our homes, offering gratitude for it, and believing that we can have more of it in our moments.
It’s super crazy how fast the month has gone. The stores went straight from Christmas to Valentines two weeks ago, bless it!
And even though I’m not going to buy the pink-iced cupcakes on the endcaps at the store, I can still take a hint: it’s time to start preparing.
I’ll admit: we do like to stretch our holidays a little bit over here– even more so with this one, since we felt like Christmas fun was cut short. (Thanks, Covid.)
Anyhoo, I’ve gone ahead and compiled a week’s worth of activities and ideas. Use one or use them all– totally up to you! The underlines link up to videos, recipes, and suggested items to check out, in case you don’t have random craft stuff jammed in drawers like we do. Ha!
Want the actual links to work? Ha! Here’s a pdf download with all the clickables!
I’ll be bluntly honest; we might not do every thing I have on this little weekly calendar, but I do plan on doing several. A sure-thing though, is our “I love you” fondue. We have done that every Valentine’s Day for 3 years now, and we are keeping that for, oh, forever. (My husband and I don’t actually like to go out on the actual date because it’s just too crowded and all of that. Instead, we celebrate love together as a family on the 14th– and the hubs and I head out the weekend after, when it is a bit easier to find a sitter and a seat at a restaurant. 😉 #worksmarternotharder)
Here’s wishing you a day, a week, a whole month full of sweet moments and memories of loving well. ❤
“It’s realizing that a great dream is not as good as a great memory. The dream can be had by anyone. The memory – must be made.” Eric Thomas
I will admit to the past couple of years being one of waving grief. With so much changing, and with the promise of normalcy being pushed back further and further, I’ve lamented the fact that maybe I won’t get to make the memories I want with my family the way that I dreamed. The Swiss Alps will be my own experience, and not a shared one. Florence, Italy will be my own words, and something I can share in snapshots and story snippets… not hand-in-hand. The Black Forest is some place I can tell my kids I’ve been, and the trees won’t be something we will see together.
It makes the world a bit sadder, and heaven a bit sweeter.
And it’s true— that my grief might all be for nothing and the cloud of COVID and all the junk surrounding it will lift, and we will have the most amazing field trip in the world when they are older.
But the point of this post isn’t really a lament… so let me get back on task.
The point of the post is exactly what the quotation says in the beginning… that memories made are more valuable, precious, deserving because they have existed beyond the walls of our imagination. We have made something real and weaved it in the fabric of our lives and our story— and the stories of the people that were with us.
Our little family was late to the mountains this year— we couldn’t escape earlier for several reasons. We bought apples in bags instead of picking them off trees. But that didn’t damper the beauty of the leaves around us, and the wonder of a random bamboo forest, the sweetness of fall treats, and the laughs over goofy pictures with street bear statues.
(On a side note, how are my children growing so fast?! I’m afraid to blink and breathe anymore.)
Here’s to dreams: that they become memories. But here’s to memories: that we make them in our backyards and slightly beyond… and delight in the simplicity and joy they bring to our moments.