Category : Joy

Skipping Rocks
Action, Joy, Projects
0

Just Do One Thing

 On any given to-do list, there are the pressing errands and whatnot that need urgent attention and then there are the projects – small and large – that tend to get back-burnered due to time constraints.

A little while ago, my group of Mom-friends decided they were going to do Project 365, taking a photo every day for a year.  Most of them planned on scrapbooking (digitally or on paper), and documenting a year of daily life in their families.  While I loved the idea, my project list was waaaaay too long, and I was pretty happy with the ease of sharing photos and posts on Facebook for all of my long distance family.

Instead, I proposed my own version: doing a project a day for a year.  I figured if I could just do one thing from my project list every day, it’d really help me out.

I had no idea the profound impact that this practice would have on my life.

I started listing out all those back-burnered things – in no particular order.  At the time I was struggling with depression and an intense set of work deadlines.  Both motivation and time were lacking in major ways.  But moreover, I started to feel mocked by my to-do list.  And there was no way I was going to let a list win.  So I began my 365 Projects.

Just. Do. One. Thing

Some days I would just have 5 or 10 minutes in between work, house, and motherhood responsibilities.  Other times, like on weekends, I’d take a little longer.  I found that if a task required multiple steps – like first acquiring the supplies and then actually patching the holes in the knees of my boys’ jeans – I’d count that as two things, especially since I’d have to do each step on a different day.

Within a remarkably short period of time (maybe six weeks), I had accomplished all of the nagging tasks on my list.  By just doing one thing each day, I eliminated the feeling of being overwhelmed.  I became proactive.  I was, once again, making a difference the organization and function of my home; I was making a difference in my life.

But that wasn’t even the best part.  The BEST part was what happened in my attitude.

Completing each of these projects brought me a little joy.  Every time I would use a space or a “thing” that had been part of one of my 365 Projects, I’d smile.  Embracing that joy transformed my attitude.  Now, when I encounter something that frustrates me, instead of being overwhelmed by the ever-growing to-do list tasks (which will always be there), I get excited about the possibilities and begin brainstorming a solution.

My friend and mentor, Tom Groome offers a reflection on John the Baptist which resonates deeply with people in ministry (and for what it’s worth, I consider motherhood a ministry).  Tom praises John’s wisdom for knowing that he is not the Messiah.  I remember Tom inviting us to speak those words aloud: I am not the MessiahI am not the MessiahI am not the Messiah.

So often – in both our personal and professional lives – we feel like we have to do it all, so overwhelmed by everything before us that we can’t figure out where to begin.

Whether it’s your home, your relationships, your kids, your friends, your work, or the social injustices plaguing our world, it’s a good idea to remind yourself:

I am not the Messiah.

We have one of those.  It’s not all up to you; that’s what God is for.

At the same time, that doesn’t mean that the answer is to do nothing.

When looking at the social injustices in the world, it’s not uncommon to hear people (mis)quote Jesus, “The Poor will always be with us” (Matthew 26:1).

Dorothy Day responds to this beautifully:  “Yes, the poor are always going to be with us—Our Lord told us that—and there will always be a need for our sharing…It will always be a lifetime job.  But I am sure that God did not intend that there be so many poor…we must do what we can to change it” (“Works of Mercy.” Dorothy Day Selected Writings. Ed Robert Ellsberg. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 1996, 111).

“What we would like to do is change the world…We can to a certain extent change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world.  We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever-widening circle will reach around the world….[T]here is nothing we can do but love, and dear God—please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as well as our friend” (Ibid, 98).


Skipping Rocks by Robb & Jessie Stankey licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Drip Painting
Hope, Joy, Projects, Sabbath, Transformation
4

Just Paint Over It

For the longest time, I really didn’t have a discernable hobby.  I mean I’ve always enjoyed doing lots (and lots and lots) of different things, but I never felt like I had a concentrated focus on any activity or interest to consider it my answer to what I would do for pleasure or relaxation.

Many of my closest friends and family members (especially my husband) would readily agree that the lack of doing something purely for pleasure or relaxation has been kind of a problem for me.  I don’t know if anyone ever bluntly told me to “go find a hobby.” Maybe they should’ve.  Hmm… Actually, I probably would’ve responded with, “I don’t have time,” which is evidently exactly why I needed one.  But I digress.

Several years ago, I discovered paint-your-own-pottery.  I loved the creative process.  I loved that so long as I approached painting like I was a 9 year old coloring a picture, it turned out pretty cool looking.  AND, I loved that I could use it in my daily life.


Painted Mug 1
Painted Mug 4

Painted Mug 2
Painted Mug 4

Painted Mug 3
Painted Mug 6

After a while, however, I found that paint-your-own-pottery was getting pretty expensive.  And really, how many mugs, plates, bowls, and light-switch plates does a girl need?  Well, over the course of 10+ years, it amounts to quite a bit of both: cost and stuff.

While excitedly working on painting a replacement tea mug, I mentioned my creative joy and my stumbling blocks to my friend, Stacey.  I wanted to do “this kind of thing” more often, but didn’t want the excessive cost or stuff.  She suggested: “Try painting on paper, just for the fun of it.  No one even has to see it if you don’t want them to.”

So I did try.  Twice.  Instead of feeling excitement, relaxation, and pleasure, I was filled with anxiety, completely stressed out about what I was supposed to paint and why.  The process itself was tainted by the fact that I genuinely didn’t like what I painted.  Moreover, I really did want to do something with it.  There was something about the overall purpose of the creation that generated joy for me.

Shortly after these failed attempts at making painting itself a hobby, Stacey’s sister Sara offered her own version of “Pinot and Picasso,” where she taught my group of girlfriends how to paint our own copy of a work of art with step-by-step instructions.  In case you missed it in the class title, there was also a promise of wine, so I was in.

Intimidated even further by the thought of painting on canvas, I hesitated at every step.  Then Sara said something that changed my whole approach to painting:

If you don’t like something, just paint over it.

How freeing!

This insight allowed me to experiment without hesitation.  I had infinite do-over’s.  If something didn’t work, I could just try again, and again, and again until I liked it.  Sometimes that meant starting over.  Sometimes it meant painting over the one spot that wasn’t working.  It removed the pressure of feeling like I had to have the whole thing perfectly planned out before I even started.  Or feeling like it was ruined by one little (or big) mistake.

As a proactive person, I don’t ever want to feel stuck in a complaining rut.  I’d much rather feel empowered to do something about it.  With this just paint over it insight, instead of feeling bound by a choice my attitude became one of exploring the possibilities.

What a wonderful approach to all of life!  If you don’t like something, just paint over it.  As I looked around at my house, my relationships, my work, and inward at myself, this insight became one of transformation.  Don’t trash it; don’t brush it under the carpet and ignore it.  If I didn’t like something, I could transform it.

The very idea of transformation cultivates hope.

In faith, this is the transformation that is linked to forgiveness.  The Greek word for what happens in the transforming process of forgiveness is metanoia.  It is a change of heart, a conversion where the person turns away from what is destructive, hurtful, hateful, and instead turns towards God.

Turning towards God involves

  • forgiving oneself and transforming one’s own character
  • forgiving others, seeking forgiveness from others, and transforming relationships
  • seeking forgiveness from God and becoming transformed.

Put another way, metanoia is about

  • becoming more (and more and more) of a good person
  • doing what is right
  • acting with love
  • helping others
  • Looking around your own life, what would you like to just paint over and transform?

Drip painting by Justin Green licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Woman Jumping with green scarf
Joy, Love
0

Joy

In a word, my New Year’s resolution was joy. I want to see the joy that I know permeates my life. It’s as much about an increased awareness for me as it is about changing my perspective on otherwise mediocre (or downright annoying) events in my life.

I read Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, happiness is not my word. For me, “happiness” conjures images of immediate, transitory, situational pleasure. Throughout her book, Rubin cites philosophers and theologians throughout the ages who offer a variety of definitions and descriptions about what happiness is and is not. I love Rubin’s expression of happiness; in fact, it is aligned with my own understanding of joy.

My notion of joy (and Rubin’s of happiness) is more of a deep, big-picture outlook encompassing the growth and well-being of one’s body, mind, and soul. Joy is enduring. Joy has a spiritual dimension to it – as if it is the very experience of one’s soul taking delight. Joy is infused with love and gratitude.

So joy is my word.

As a pastoral theologian and educator, my area of expertise is taking the theoretical, putting it into practice, and then reflecting upon the process to learn and grow in my life and faith. The idea is that joy will go from being my word to becoming my life.

In the first couple of days, I challenged myself to embrace the smiles which my boys bring me as opportunities for joy. I reveled in the opportunity to vacuum my carseat-free RAV4 and liberate it from the Cheerios, Chex, and raisins imbedded in the back seat.

One of my favorite pastimes is doing crafty projects, so one afternoon that I fully intended to walk to the park with the kids, I threw schedules to the wind and got totally absorbed in things involving fabric, paint, and a hot glue gun. I even let the boys use the low-temp glue gun and make their own messy whatevers. It wasn’t about making a birthday gift for a 4 year old; it was about creating something new, fun, imagined, and even useful. So, so much fun! Joy.

When I found myself with an extra 25 minutes before I needed to pick the kids up from school, I called the husband, coordinated meeting at the park near his work, and packed a picnic lunch. It was delightful.

I feel like I have found the Zen of cleaning. I have white tiles with “supposedly” white grout on my kitchen floor. Really scrubbing that grout is a hands-and-knees chore that I’ve been avoiding for two solid years. But I looked to the resolution to embrace it and ultimately transform it. A good scrub brush, a bucket of water, a decent cleaning agent, some towels, and a couple of hours, along with a lot of elbow grease allowed me to latch on to the perks of this previously dreaded task. The grout went from black to off-white, which in my mind was instant gratification. And in the “lather, rinse, repeat” mode, I had a lot of time to simply think and reflect – which in and of itself is a total bonus in my world.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I basically blew out my wrists with a repetitive-use injury the day after the kitchen floor project. But with a focus on joy, I acknowledged my transitory pain and every time I walk into the room, I’m still prompted to bask in the glory of sparkling white floors.

From the standpoint of faith, this focus on joy has helped me tune into the presence of God in my daily life. It reminds me of the virtue of Hope and maintaining a proper perspective on what does and does not matter.

Joy is available to me. I need only to see it. As the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) wrote:

Earth’s crammed with heaven.
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes –
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

“Jumping © Depositphotos.com/ikostudio”

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