People say the devil is in the details… I disagree. Beauty is in the details. Insight is in the details. God is in the details. So this week I cut down my list from 20 to 9 and I went deeper.
Observe the world around you. Go deep.
1. Specific encouragement is the best kind of encouragement.
This week someone complimented me on my writing. But it wasn’t broad and vague; something that could easily be disguised as just being nice. She was specific. Very specific. A specific blog post that touched her personally. So much so, that she complimented me about it in front of someone else and encouraged that someone else to follow me. That specificity will stick with me for a long time. The next time we cross paths I know I will remember this passing conversation because it was personal for her and personal for me.
Encourage someone today and be ridiculously awkwardly detailed and specific. Tell them what they mean to you. Be the memory they can call upon when days are tough. Be the light in their week.
2. Water makes sound travel farther.
When there is morning dew on the grass, I swear the highway and the train tracks sound closer. I could be wrong. The tiny bird in the top of my tree doesn’t mind, he just sings louder to compensate.
When the negativity is pervasive. When the shouting matches ensue. When people type in ALL CAPS… Don’t.
Sing louder to compensate. Be the positive voice. Be the thankful voice. Shout at someone that you love them. And it’s okay to do that in all caps.
3. Mostly dead, isn’t dead.
The tree in front of my house isn’t quite what it used to be. It used to be the one that provided shade to the neighbor kid’s car. It used to be the one that people had to duck under when they walked their dogs on the sidewalk in front of our house. Now it is bare. No leaves. None. It’s July. It should be full and green. But my neighbor says I need to call the city and have it replaced. Except I can’t. Because of Harold.
Because there are no leaves I see him every morning. On the top branch. Singing at the top of his lungs. Is he praising God? Is he calling his friends to play? Is he looking for a lover? I’ll never know. But if I remove the tree, I might lose Harold and his beautiful singing voice.
Sometimes your focus can change. And that’s ok. It doesn’t mean something is done and needs to be put away. It may mean you just need to look at it differently. For most of its life the tree gave shade. Now it gives a bird a place to sing with an audience of one. If the thing that you loved, changed… change how you love it.
4. I miss Busia.
Sometimes I feel small. Like 8 years old small. In the midst of an ordinary adulting kind of day. And I want to curl up on her lap, have her hug me, while I smell her Aqua Net hairspray and tell her about my day.
Never grow out of your favorite memories. Keep them alive even if they make you cry.
5. Garth Brooks was right.
In the early 90’s Garth Brooks had a song about thanking God for unanswered prayers (for the record I hated country but my best friends and cousins loved it so there was no escaping it). Basically Garth was thankful that the prayer he made in high school about a girl he had a crush on, had not come true. Because now he had his wife and she was awesome. That unanswered prayer, led to something better.
Earlier this year we tried to buy a condo. We had all of these dreams and visions and reasons and rationale. The buyer said nope. I was heart broken. Then COVID hit. And I have spent every morning on my patio in front of my house. I have spent every evening on the patio in front of my house. I’ve walked through my grass barefoot and listened to Harold every morning. I’ve met my neighbors. And the kids who ride their bikes non-stop. I am so thankful that through all of this we still live in this house.
We don’t have all the facts. If we did perhaps we’d see people differently. We’d see situations differently. We’d act differently and talk differently. We’d feel differently. I don’t have all the facts in every situation. I’m not God. I don’t know all the pieces. I still pray but I trust that he knows better. And when my prayers aren’t answered I sit on my patio and look at my lawn, and laugh at the kids, and smile. This is where I’m supposed to be today.
6. Make pancakes.
There are two kinds of people in the world. Sweet and Savory. I’m savory. Hands down. Give me French Fries instead of chocolate. Chips and salsa instead of cookies. Appetizers instead of deserts. Unless, my husband is making pancakes. Then I want sweet. Then I want pancakes. Are they the best pancakes on the planet? I don’t know, I don’t eat enough pancakes. But because he makes them from scratch and I get to sit and wait for them, sipping coffee on a Sunday morning, they are the best. Because of that, for that moment, I am sweet and not savory. I want the butter and the syrup. I don’t need eggs and bacon and orange juice. His gift is enough.
When someone makes you pancakes, enjoy it with every one of your senses. It is an act of love, to receive an act of love, with all of your attention and appreciation. Especially if it’s outside of your normal routine. That’s when it means the most. Your response to love, can be love if you choose it to be.
7. I am thankful. I am jealous. I am both.
All the feels lately. And some I hold simultaneously in a given moment. Internet, you are making this much harder for me. Reminding me that we should be going to baseball stadiums and beer festivals and celebrating our wedding anniversary and birthdays in fun places. Reminding me of all the stuff we used to do with friends and for a variety of reasons that is different now. So I am jealous of past things I can’t do. And I am also jealous of you. All the house projects you had a vision for and the skills you had to complete them. The kitten you adopted. The trips you took anyway. The play dates. Your crazy long hair.
And yet I am so over the top grateful, too. For my little patio that’s always in the shade. That we have food in our fridge and I can cook. That our A/C works in the midst of wacky Illinois weather. That we didn’t get hit by that tornado infested storm the other week. That I know our neighbors. That we’ve walked in the woods in a different part of Illinois nearly every weekend. That we took the leap. That my new boss is amazing.
Life is a mixture. Of people things stuff places memories. They don’t all hold the same weight. They don’t all evoke the same feelings. And that’s actually quite beautiful. The variety of everything. Language is powerful so we can change the way we talk about it. It’s not a rollercoaster. It’s variety. And variety has so many facets. So much more than up or down. It can be wide and deep and short and shallow and colorful and loud and quiet… Variety gives you choice. Choose how you respond. Choose what you look at. Choose to see and remember the thing to be thankful for.
8. Don’t use the coffee maker and the toaster at the same time.
Power strips have limits. Outlets have limits. Too many things running at the same time, and the system runs out of juice. And everything shuts off.
We’re like that too. We have limits. Too many things running at the same time, for too long, and we shut down. We aren’t our best self. We lose the filter. We lose the passion. We snap at people we care about. We treat strangers with disrespect. We miss the chance. So stop using the coffee maker and the toaster at the same time. Focus. With all of your senses, slow down and experience all of a moment. Efficiency is not always the most important thing. Yes you will get less done, but this life was never about quantity anyway.
9. GPS in the woods is quite helpful.
I have a fear of getting lost. Blame it on too many episodes of Law & Order SVU. Horror movies. So if there is a trail, I want to stay on it. I don’t like the “ooh lets see where this goes” method of hiking. I don’t have a great sense of direction and I’m a planner.
Today we got off the path. Actually we didn’t start on the path. We made a cut through, walked around, got on the actual path, then took a horse path, sort of, walked in a creek, followed a creek, made our own path… We definitely did not follow the marked trail. And it was perfect.
We saw tons of mushrooms! All different kinds. We could only hear the water in the creek and the bugs. No people. No cars. Just us. Using sticks to fight off spider webs, while talking about what’s next.
And along the way if I got unsure, the little blue dot on my phone showed me where we were, which direction we were headed and if it was anywhere near the car. So I could just enjoy the trees so much taller than me. I could just enjoy the bright green of everything. I could just enjoy our conversation. I could follow Busia’s wisdom,
“Enjoy life. Enjoy life. Every part of your life. Enjoy.”Busia
Fear stops us from encountering joy in unexpected places. Find things that reduce your fear. Ask others what they’ve tried. Bring someone along. But try. Don’t miss the hidden moments that have the power to become your favorite memories, your best accomplishment, your purpose.
Nine is such an odd number to stop on. But my challenge to you, is that you write #10. Stop reading, stop scrolling, stop whatevering… and write it down. Write down something you observed that you are thankful for. Be specific. Go deep. And carry it with you. Remember it. God is trying to encourage you. Don’t miss it.