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Mindful of small things

Welcome to the new year. 2021. There are so many who couldn’t wait to get here, with 2020 in the rear-view mirror. Although we all know it doesn’t quite work that easily, does it?
But this I do know, from a year where so much (and so many) came undone, we carry with us a gift, now living in a world where we ask (literally), what is truly essential?

When I was able to travel for work, people would always ask, “Did you have a successful trip?”
“I’m certain I did,” I tell them. Although truth be told, I don’t always know. There is some kind of pegboard in our heads where we hang our worth or value. And it’s too easy to get worked up about finding the right peg. And I’ll tell you what; that peg board is hard to disregard and leave behind. 

Kathleen Norris writes about her niece (in her book Acedia and Me). When her niece was three, Kathleen’s brother would drive her to day care in the morning, and her mother, who worked as a stockbroker and financial planner, would pick her up in the afternoon. She always brought an orange, peeled so that her daughter could eat it on the way home. One day the child was busying herself by playing “Mommy’s office” on the front porch of her aunt’s house, and Kathleen asked her what her mother did at work. Without hesitation, and with a conviction to relish, she looked up and said, “She makes oranges.”
In a world where what you do (achievement, celebrity, notoriety), makes you “somebody,” “making oranges” doesn’t compute.
And yes. We need a different way to measure. Because here’s the deal: Maybe success is about making oranges.
You want my litmus test?
Here’s what I want to bring to any moment or encounter.
–Showing up.
–Being present, wrapped in empathy.
–Connection, fueled by kindness.

There are so many things we couldn’t do in 2020. I missed my annual visit to Manasota Key, Florida, where I would always spend my December birthday. (You know, doctor’s orders.)
My plans for that annual visit? A bit sumptuous; I would walk the beach, look for shark’s teeth, savor conch fritters, count pelicans (and watch them glide just above the Gulf, their spacing to the water does not deviate, as if the bird and the water are repelling magnets), I would nap, and stand knee deep in the water, and wait to cheer the sunset each night.
I have a memory from a past trip, with friends Ed and Kathleen, on their boat coming back up the intercostal from Stump Pass, the metal connecting engine to the rudders breaks loose, leaving us with a steering conundrum. We set the speed at mosey, and debate our options, until Kathleen finds the wisdom we need, “We don’t need to go home any faster than this.”
Sometimes we need a different way to measure. 

This brings to mind my mentor, Lew Smedes’ reminder, “Gratitude dances though the open windows of our hearts. We cannot force it. We cannot create it. And we can certainly close our windows to keep it out. But we can also keep them open and be ready for the joy when it comes.”
Living one open window at a time.
I once did a workshop where I asked the participants to describe life. One woman said, “Life is so… life is so… life is so… daily.”
Yes. She’s right. And that is the secret.
The miracle is that there need not be a miracle–just a slow drip of experience. Being mindful of small things; the ordinary is the hiding place for the holy.
Places where we are able to receive. And places from which we give: wholeheartedness, joy, grief, compassion, sorrow, kindness, grace, forgiveness, gladness.  And until I understand that truth (until I take it to heart), I miss the point.

Or, in the words of William Kittredge, “Moments when nothing happened. What sweet nothing.”
In other words, we don’t run from the moment (even moments that unnerve and distress).
We don’t suffocate the moment with stuff (physical and mental).
We don’t sanitize the moment with platitudes.
We sit. We listen. We look. We taste. We smell. We see.
We look for the light of God in the most ordinary, and even the most dull, of contexts.
(I know that I preordain, when I hope or try to orchestrate, rather than just experience. I also know that whether it is experience or relationship or liturgy or prayer or meditation, if you don’t bring it with you, you’re not going to find it there.) 

But here’s the good news and gift for your new year: Gratitude is the instrument allowing us to participate in hope. And we bring gratitude to this present moment.
So, yes. Sometimes we need a different way to measure. 

When we take this to heart, the story doesn’t just end there. It emanates. Gratitude always spills. And with it, hope. What a gift.
When a young girl in an African village heard that her visiting teacher would be leaving their village, she wanted to give her a special gift.  The girl didn’t have any money to buy a present for her teacher, but finally determined what she would do.
She was gone for two days. When she returned, she was carrying the most exquisite shell anyone in her village had ever seen. “Where did you find such a beautiful shell?” her teacher asked amazed. The child told her that such shells were found only on a certain faraway beach.
The teacher was deeply touched, because she knew that the girl had walked many miles to find the shell. “Why, it’s wonderful, but you shouldn’t have gone all that way to get a gift for me.”
Her eyes brightening, the girl smiled and answered, “Long walk part of gift.”
Sometimes we need a different way to measure.
This story is a perfect portrayal snapshot of 2020. Ordinary people (carrying their own weight), stepping up. To care. To give. To sacrifice. To honor our responsibility to our human family. To honor a different way to measure.

Interesting weather phenomenon on my walk today. I googled it, and found that it’s called sunshine. What a gift.
The ducks in the ponds. The geese meander, looking for the sun. People tell me the geese are messy and noisy. Welcome to church ministry. Just sayin’.
I do admit, I miss the balm the sheep offered. They never rocked my boat, or remind me of life’s rough and ragged edges, that we take so personally. But then again, it’s all about how we measure.

On this, the 10th day of Christmas, I spent the morning with the people of Burton Church (Vashon Island), guest preacher on Zoom church.

Quote for your week…
Lynne Twist talks about visiting a potter in Mexico. She admired the pottery, and commented on its beauty. She noticed that the potter had many pots and asked, “How many pots have you made?” The potter was surprised by the question. “Here,” he answered, “we don’t count such things.” The Soul of Money

Note: I am so grateful you are a part of the Sabbath Moment Community. We do walk one another home. Thank you for being with me every Monday (and many for Daily Dose). You have kept me going. That’s the truth. May this new year be one of acceptance, love, forgiveness, and hope for each of us until the end of God’s time.

I’m grateful for those who have joined us for the NEW Sabbath Moment Daily Dose. Tuesday through Friday. A quote, a paragraph and a prayer to refuel us. Daily nourishment. This is in addition to Monday’s Sabbath Moment.

My new book is here. Order today. The Gift of Enough–a journal for the present moment (Franciscan Media).

Plus… A new eCourse available at no cost – This Is The Life. 
Other eCourses at no cost.
Join our eCourse Retreat. The Power of Pause.
Join our eCourse Retreat. Sacred Necessities.
The retreats are available to anyone. No cost. Sign up today.


Today’s Photo Credit: “I took this in Nice, California of sunrise on Clear Lake. Hope you like it and it brings a smile on your face. It did mine. God bless,” Toni Morrella… Thank you Toni… Keep sending your photos… send to 

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In the mailbag…
–Terry, I love Mondays with you, thank you. Some Mondays are extra special, this is one of the “specials”. I must have missed your telling of your move to Port Ludlow. So sorry you had to leave your garden as well as your home. Take good care, be well. Slainte’ Judi 

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What in your life is calling you? When all the noise is silenced, the meetings adjourned, the lists laid aside, and the wild iris blooms by itself in the dark forest, what still pulls on your soul? Rumi

May Light always surround you;
Hope kindle and rebound you.
May your Hurts turn to Healing;
Your Heart embrace Feeling.
May Wounds become Wisdom;
Every Kindness a Prism.
May Laughter infect you;
Your Passion resurrect you.
May Goodness inspire
your Deepest Desires.
Through all that you Reach For,
May your arms Never Tire.

I have a small grain of hope–
one small crystal that gleams
clear colors out of transparency.
I need more.
I break off a fragment
to send to you.
Please take
this grain of a grain of hope
so that mine won’t shrink.
Please share your fragment
so that yours will grow.
Only so, by division,
will hope increase,
like a clump of irises, which will cease to flower
unless you distribute
the clustered roots, unlikely source–
clumsy and earth-covered–
of grace.
Denise Levertov

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