Syllabi

I can still see my seventeen-year-old self standing in a college bookstore, a stack of syllabi in hand. I expect the prep-for-class process has changed, but back then it worked like this:

  1. Register for classes. (In a gym full of card tables!)
  2. Pick up a syllabus for each class.
  3. Read through each one to see what will be required throughout the semester.
  4. Buy all the books needed for every class. (In person. At an actual bookstore.)

Hauling all those textbooks back to the dorm was no easy task. Talk about a beast of burden! The real burden, though, and the real beast, was in my own brain. I would inevitably look at a whole semester’s worth of assignments and wonder—with a good bit of worry—how I would ever be able to do all that work. Some part of me disregarded the long timeline, the months stretching out before me to offer the gift of ample time, as if it was all due TODAY.

Of course, I did have enough time, and did finish the assignments, and graduate and find employment and…But it took me a long time to learn this lesson:

When life looms large and its demands seem overwhelming, JUST DO TODAY!

Those early weeks of college were tainted by my insistence on mentally tackling way too much before the real time to do so. Life presents plenty of challenge, and when we try to take it all on at once, or even wonder how we will handle tomorrow while we are embroiled in today, we wreck any possibility of peace. Why do we do that? I think it has something to do with that old enemy of ours who seeks to steal, kill and destroy. It may also have something to do with our demented idea that we can control and handle all things on our own. Taking things one day at a time is much easier to do when we remember Who holds our future.

Jesus taught this lesson long ago. The sooner we learn it, the better!

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14: 27).

10 Things to Do When You Are Tired

My life is delightfully full—and also sometimes a bit out of balance. In other words, I get pretty pooped out now and then. What’s a body to do?

I know the Bible says that if I wait upon the Lord, I’ll renew my strength, but sometimes my strength, well, it needs renewing sooner rather than later. Here are a few steps I try to take:

Play worship music. It lifts my spirits and energizes me.

Use a Bible software app (like YouVersion) to fit in Bible reading on a busy day. Sometimes I listen while doing chores around the house or driving or lying flat on my back for a few minutes.

Put on a pair of supportive shoes. Don’t laugh until you’ve tried it. And this tip isn’t just for the over 45 crowd. I’ve been donning good shoes first thing in the morning since my kids were toddlers, and when I don’t, I pay for it by the end of the day.

Eat a piece of fruit. Sometimes, I just need a hit of sugar, but of the kind that will last a while without making me crash.

Try a cup of green tea—lots of possible benefits, only a little caffeine. Or give kukicha tea a try. (I love it, but its flavor isn’t for everyone.)

Reevaluate “The List.” Is there something that can be delegated or delayed?

Alternate “body tasks” (stuff that takes physical stamina) with “brain tasks” (the ones that require sitting and thinking.) At the very least, take short breaks from any particular type of task.

Remember, this time will probably pass. It’s easy to become even more tired today by thinking about all I have to do tomorrow, so I try to take things one day at a time. An easier day may crop up before long.  

Notice the “chocolate chips” of the day. Even when we’re tired, the day is better if we look for the little blessings and moments of joy sprinkled here and there.

And, of course, ask the Lord to provide strength. (He does promise it after all. See Isaiah 40.)

Mr. Sagehorn

Photo by Jordan Benton on Pexels.com

When I was in the eighth grade, I had three teachers. One taught science and math. I remember his face, but not his name. One taught language arts. Her name was Mrs. Marsh. She scared the heck out of me on the first day of class, but taught me more about writing than anyone else ever did (except for my parents, but that’s another story). And then there was Mr. Sagehorn. Mr. Sagehorn was also the principal of that little Lutheran school. Here’s what I remember best about him.

Whenever students broke the rules, Mr. Sagehorn would require them to write a sentence over and over, the number varying with the severity of the offense. It was always this sentence:

“Procrastination is an undesirable characteristic.”

Not to brag, but I don’t think Mr. Sagehorn ever made me write sentences. (Honestly, I was too intimidated by the rigors of junior high to even consider breaking the rules.) But that line, driven deeply into my impressionable psyche, has remained with me until this day. And until this day, I think I always considered it to be the gospel truth.

Silly me.

Today, I sipped my morning tea while considering my long “to do” list. We’ve had a few very full weeks of travel and houseguests. Yesterday, in honor of our wedding anniversary, Steve and I vowed to spend the day resting together. I felt I could procrastinate no longer! Then my phone rang. Would I like to join my grandchildren on a trip to the neighborhood pool?

At that moment, a light went on in my head. Procrastination can be a VERY desirable characteristic. Without it, we become slaves to our lists and routines. We miss the special moments God and loved ones drop into our lives, often at unexpected times.

I went to the pool. I had a blast. I gave my dirty house a quick once-over instead of the thorough cleaning it may have deserved. The laundry stayed in the basket. Only the most urgent slips of paper were handled and discarded from my desk. It will all be there tomorrow, as will the memory of laughing and splashing and soaking up sunshine with three precious little kids.

Sure, there are things that can’t wait. Yes, prolonged procrastination can lead to trouble. But (sorry, Mr. Sagehorn) I now understand that a little bit of procrastination can be good for the soul.

If your “to do” list is keeping you from a blessing—one you need, or one you need to share—take a moment to prioritize, and PROCRASTINATE!

I Get To

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Welcome to the holiday blitz. Are you ready? I’m not asking if your tree is already up and your shopping started and your cookies baked… I’m wondering if you are ready inside. I am, by the grace of God, more ready than I’ve ever been, because this year I’ve looked at Christmas, Easter, and every other big moment in life and realized they aren’t as important to me as the little moments in life. I’ve asked myself a dozen times what is important to me. Trees and shopping and cookies are nice, but they don’t really make the cut. Family, friends, worship, rest, health, noticing life—those things make the cut.

Last year, we didn’t put up a tree. Christmas happened anyway. This year, I only put up half of our decorations. The other half can have its turn next year. I will shop, but I’ll remember that, during my last visit with 6 month old Nick, his favorite toys were an empty shampoo bottle and a red Solo cup. ‘Sorta wish I’d learned all these lessons when my children were small.

There will be moments in this holiday season, and in all the seasons thereafter, when life outpaces me, when it will seem that the demands to serve are greater than my time and energy allow. Then I will try to remember what my pastor taught me last week. “I get to” is an attitude that will trump “I have to” every time.

Do you have to do the dishes or run a bunch of errands? I have a wheelchair-bound friend who would love to get to do that.

Do you have to read a stack of papers or pay a stack of bills? My nearly sightless friend would gladly trade places with you for a day.

Do you have to rise in the wee hours, yet again, to care for a sleepless child? My sweet daughter-in-law calls her midnight vigils “bonus time” with her baby. She gets it. She gets to.

This year, I will think first before diving into what I once thought was required of me at Christmas.  If it isn’t important, I just might skip it. And when my list looks long anyway, I’ll remember that, regarding all that life requires of me both now and as the new year begins, I get to.

 

 

Humbled by Hospitality

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Last week’s definition of hospitality looked like this:

  • The generous reception and entertainment of guests.
  • A relationship between a guest and host, in which the host received the guest with goodwill.
  • Showing respect for one’s guests, treating them as equals.

So here’s this week’s question: How much does that definition relate to elaborate food, a perfectly clean home, and ready-to-converse information on the hottest news events? If you answered, “Very little,” then you and I are on the same page.

Steve and I spent many years opening our home to young people. They never cared if the carpet needed vacuuming. (In fact, it made more sense to vacuum after they left.) As for food, we called them the locusts (sorry, guys!), because any sort of leftover was fair game. No matter what we set out on our counters, they swept in and ate it all. And as to conversation, they didn’t care so much about what we said as they did about what we asked and how closely we listened when they answered. I thought the ease of entertaining them had to do with their youth. Now I’m not so sure. Perhaps adults would be just as pleased with an invitation to enjoy simple, relaxed hospitality as all those teenagers were.

Am I suggesting that we welcome guests into a dirty home and serve whatever falls out of our refrigerators when we open them? Not exactly, but how about this. Let’s help revive a culture of hospitality within our circle—and open that circle widely whenever possible.  Let’s stop allowing “I’m busy” to reduce our connections to a quick voicemail or two. What if we were all more willing to tidy up one room, ignore the dust bunnies, and welcome a friend, neighbor or lonely teen to come and play a game of cards? Or perhaps we could share a simple supper without chagrin. Nobody cares that much about what’s on the table when guests are received with respect and a desire for relationship.

This sort of hospitality requires a certain degree of humility, a willingness to let friends and neighbors peek around the corners of our busy lives into our imperfections. So what if they see a haphazard stack of bills, laundry, or dishes? So what if all we have to offer is a can of soup or some scrambled eggs? There is a time for well-planned parties, but we can practice hospitality even when time is short. Chances are that those we welcome into our own kitchens and living rooms aren’t leaving behind circumstances much different from our own.

A Is for Lighten Up

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I have “Type A” tendencies. I like to get up early, be on time, keep my house neat, cross things off my to do list as quickly as possible and… you get the picture. Sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes not so much. Years ago, though, the Lord whispered a line of instruction into my heart, “Seek my perfection.” I understood that to mean “Hey, Brenda, make sure what you think is important lines up with what the Lord thinks is important.”

Lately, I have another phrase floating through my head. “Imperfection is a beautiful thing.” This thought may seem to contradict the first one. In reality, though, they both point to an important truth for those of us who sometimes get bogged down in getting things right: What God considers perfect and what I consider perfect are often two very different things.

In Matthew 5:48, Jesus tells his listeners (and therefore us as well) to be perfect, but he wasn’t talking about how quickly the dishes get done or the bills get paid. He was talking about sin, about how we can only be saved through him. Here’s an interesting article discussing that verse: http://beyeperfect.org/project/become-perfect/ . That kind of perfection isn’t what I’m writing about today, though. I’m concerned with the sort of perfection that can keep our minds and our schedules too tied up to enjoy a life of service and a peaceful heart.

  • Remember Jane Jetson, of the space age cartoon? She would only answer her photo phone after she had donned her “perfect face” mask and wig. Looking perfect takes a lot of time. I’m learning to be okay with a few “warts” showing.
  • Ever read Open Heart, Open Home by Karen Mains? She learned that not-so-perfect living rooms often make people feel more welcome than Southern Living style showcases. I’m learning to live with a few dust bunnies here and there.
  • And while I still think punctuality is the best plan as a general rule, sometimes life just gets in the way. When promptness becomes impossible, what good does it do to spend the next hour or so wallowing in self-incrimination (or, worse yet, in anger toward some other person who made you late)? Ten minutes of tardiness can become an hour of distraction in no time at all. Not good.

Do I think we should all become lazy, messy and late? No. But we do need to become transparent, vulnerable and willing to let go of our own priorities when they don’t match up with God’s order of the day. Sometimes his plan may call for

  • A late night phone call that puts me into a slow fog the next morning.
  • A short notice hospital visit that tanks the day’s schedule.
  • An unexpected visitor when the kitchen floor is sticky or I haven’t brushed my hair.
  • Checklist items that go permanently undone simply because there’s something more important to do.

And so, I begin this day hoping the Lord’s priorities will become my own and wondering, “What does ‘seeking his perfection’ look like in your life?”