2017 started out like many years – with me desiring to make the most of my time and energy. So I signed up for Michael Hyatt‘s course Best Year Ever. I began the year with great goals and high productivity. I was excited about using time blocking to manage my time and increase my results. My personal and professional lives were going along swimmingly.
On April 3rd everything came to a screeching halt. Our daughter and my parents were in a horrific car accident. Thus began a four month ordeal that I will share more about in a future post. I spent weeks at a time in Florida with my family.
In my shower there hangs an Aqua Notes waterproof pad for jotting down great ideas that often come to me first thing in the morning. At the beginning of the year, I wrote on the top sheet “2017 BEST YEAR EVER.” Every time I came home from Florida, that paper would be staring me in the face each morning. I began to wonder if this was the Worst Year Ever.
Although I was tempted to cross out the word “Best” several times with a big X, I did not. I came to see that even in the midst of the worst ordeal of my life, there were still things to be thankful for. I tried to add to my 1000Gifts thankfulness journal. I held on to my faith and searched for moments of serenity amid the stress and exhaustion. I prayed like never before. I sought God and tried to continue to praise Him despite my circumstances.
I attended Homecoming at my alma mater last weekend. It was wonderful to be back on campus and see how much the college has grown. There was a vibrancy on campus – an excitement for all that God is doing in and through the college. There are many new buildings since I was there and the facilities are quite impressive. The college has kept up with education trends and the needs of the student population. At the same time, they have kept the natural beauty of the campus intact and there are beautiful places to walk both on the perimeter of the campus and in the heart of it. The sense of place and of mission is very strong on this college campus. Even the older buildings are filled with the energy of staff who are enthused about the direction and goals of the college.
We walked through the woods to the large pond and I remembered walking and cross-country skiing on these paths as well as canoeing and swimming in the pond. I saw a few old friends and met several new ones. The college motto is “Lives Worth Leading” and they are intentionally shaping students to be tomorrow’s leaders.
I try to make time on weekends for creative and stimulating pursuits.
Some of the activities that I enjoy are painting, with watercolors or acrylics, reading mysteries, keeping a journal, and drinking hot tea or hot cocoa.
What does rejuvenation look like for you?
Had a fantastic day trip to Block Island this past weekend.
We rented mopeds and rode, then walked out to the North Lighthouse,
swam, walked around the point, and then rode round to the Southeast Light and Mohegan Bluffs. Went back into town for lunch and then another swim and some frisbee in the ocean. A sun-filled, salty, sandy day was just what we all needed. Refreshing to walk along the shore and see the ocean, which was very clear and a beautiful turquoise blue.
Dark storm clouds gathered in the west as we went for a drive to enjoy the spring flowering trees and bushes. It’s been two weeks since my elbow surgery and I’m in considerable pain every day. The doctor warned me ahead of time that there would be pain for a few months after the surgery. But I didn’t really hear that part; I was just desperate for a resolution to the pain from the torn tendon and inflamed nerve.
So I’ve been recuperating at home for two weeks with Advil, Tylenol, ice and stronger pain meds at night to help me sleep. I usually consider myself to have a high tolerance for pain and in fact this injury has had me in pain on and off for two years (I tried cortisone shots and therapy a few times). But finally it got so bad that I could not sleep and it was pain 24 hours a day. So the doctor cleaned up the tendon – it was too damaged to reattach – and moved the nerve so that it would not constantly be aggravated. I’m typing and writing a bit finally, but not doing much – tomorrow I go back to work. I’m not feeling ready for work, but hoping it will be a distraction from the pain. I had thought that I could use this time at home to get caught up on school. But the thing about pain is that it saps your energy. I’m normally a pretty energetic person; hence the full time job/full time student thing. I get up early, study a bit, exercise, and work, come home and study some more. Well, I’m lucky if I can concentrate long enough to read a chapter or an article these days.
I’m thankful that there is a future ahead where my elbow will be fully healed and I’ll be pain-free. Meanwhile, I must just accept this stage, trying to live with serenity and grace. Conserving my energy and not fretting about all the things that are not getting done. Such are the storms of life. We weather them as best we can, always hopeful for another day, a sunny day. Early spring is like that, 8o degrees one day, 40 degrees two days later, stormy and windy one day, sunny and balmy the next.
I’m holding on to my serenity.
I remember where I was when I got my One Word. It was early January of 2016 and I was just leaving the doctor’s office on a cold winter day, and I paused just outside the door to look at a bush. There in the midst of winter was a tiny bit of green. I was reminded to slow down and admire the beauty around me. And it came to me, Serenity is my word. It defines me. It is how I live my life. And it is partly my temperament, but it’s also intentional. Like the choice that I made to stop and admire the landscape, not just hurry on to the next thing (or back to work). It’s about choosing to see and notice the beauty around you. A life lived in a rush does not leave much room for serenity. But slowing down can be hard. Stick around, see how I cultivate Serenity.
Tom Lake, a writer for Sports Illustrated and an alum of my alma mater, Gordon College says, “We’re seeing this hunger among readers for long stories that really dig into something to find answers rather than just sticking to the surface—and they’re reading them on their iPhones.” I for one love to read the alumni magazines of several institutions that I support including Wheaton College, Gordon, and Seattle Pacific University because they have well-written and interesting stories. And the articles are somewhat long. But I enjoy the intellectual stimulation. Good photography and graphics and visually interesting layout are important, but alone they do not provide enough to hold my attention. These magazines provide an opportunity for institutions of Christian Higher Education to tell their story, to celebrate their impact on students and the world at large, to promote their vision.
The question was raised in my book study of One Thousand Gifts last week … of what is the point of listing small things that we are thankful for like the green leaves of spring. I don’t remember who asked it, but I think she and others were wrestling with the larger question of how to be thankful in the midst of life’s larger trials and what relevance these small things had. Why should we fill a list of 1000 things we are thankful for with seemingly insignificant things? How can we be thankful for the hard things?
Eucharisteo – grace, joy, thanksgiving
As I pondered this, several things came to mind.
Thankfulness is a discipline. Being thankful in the small things teaches us how to be thankful in all things.
Thankfulness is a habit – and habits take practice.
Noticing these seemingly small things, puts God in perspective and teaches us to reverence our Creator.
Noticing helps us to “be here now” to live fully. It allows us to experience life in new ways.
I think that as we develop this discipline, we grow closer to being able to trust and thank God in all circumstances.
Being thankful brings us deeper into relationship with God.
I think God is delighted when we give thanks in big and small things.
As Maria sings in The Sound of Music:
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles with warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things
- Thankful for a day outdoors
- Thankful for good weather
- Thankful for time to enjoy God’s beautiful creation
- Thankful for the hawk overhead
- Thankful for the sunshine and the breeze
- Thankful for the people I met
- Thankful for the team of people I work with
- Thankful for filet mignon for dinner
- Thankful for my health
- Thankful for women on the journey studying together
As I approach the final weeks of graduate school, we were given an assignment to reflect on our time and our growth. This is what I wrote.