still thankful, even when she looks like this

I am not a person to entrust with much of anything at 7 in the morning. It’s a wonder my daughter still allows me to make her lunch at that hour. Heaven knows what I might put in there. But today, I signed up to spend that hour in prayer as part of Alpha’s International Year of Prayer, a plan to cover the world in prayer in 2012. (

Not having found my guidelines for this project yet, I figured beginning with thanksgiving might set the tone. What did I have to be thankful for? What do I have that most of the world doesn’t?

This happened to put me in the car driving my youngest to school at the start of the hour. In the first five minutes, I found more things than I could keep up with, even given the 35 mpr heavily-enforced construction speed limit.

First and most obvious, the kid sitting beside me. Happy, healthy, and reasonably sane given her genetic inheritance. If she’s a little too attached to her cell phone and computer, well, thank you Lord she has ten fingers and can read.

I can send said child out in the neighborhood or give her the car keys with as sure a guarantee you get in this world that she’ll come back. I don’t worry about crossfire or kidnapping armies on a daily basis.

I can feed her and clothe her, and if we join the farm co-op I’ve got my eye on, I can feed her better. Can’t promise the same for the clothes. Get a job, kid. Which, she can. And I’m thankful for that.

A road. Even under construction for two years. A car. Even nine years old. Gas. Even at four bucks a gallon. I do know these are luxuries, even if I throw hissy fits about their inconvenience too often, possibly.

A cell pone in cae I run out of gas, an all-too-real possibility if her sister has driven the car last and I discover the empty gas tank only as we are pulling out with no time to spare. The phone is a far better option than walking three miles home in my pajamas and slippers, the usual driving-to-school garb of choice.

Thank you, God, for pajamas and slippers.

I am making jokes, but you know what? I just kept finding things everywhere I looked that reminded me: I should not spend one minute of my life in self-pity and complaint when I really recognize what most people do without every single day of their lives. What so many people have to fear every day of their lives. And I don’t. If I had spent the whole stinking 24 hours in thanksgiving prayer today, I would still not run out.

And thanks for friends who read this. Amen.

time suckers

This isn’t working. By “this” I mean, the 7 experiment. At least so far this month. Yes, I am taking more time for prayers, reading, and other great things I love. But Mother’s Day yesterday pretty much proved to me that this isn’t working like it’s supposed to be.

Yes, it was a good Mother’s Day. We had a great time at church. We had a fabulous lunch. Then, I sat down to check my email. For just a minute. Everyone else sat down to do something similar. And an hour or two later, that’s what we were all doing. Sitting in front of screens. Zero human interaction. Zero recognition that it was a gorgeous day outside, we had just bought a croquet set at a garage sale the day before, and for heaven’s sake anything should be a preferable use of time next to taking quizzes on “Celebrities that start with ‘G’.”

We’re good at shaking our heads at people who watch TV thirty hours a week, or can’t sustain a real relationship because they spend too much time on Facebook, or make us fear they’re part of the zombie apocalypse after fifteen straight hours of video gaming. What kind of people behave like this?!

Ahem. Those people are us. We. First person plural. Maybe not guilty of those things. But what right have I to judge when I can spend an entire evening with my family in the same room and none of us talks to one another because we’re all behind a silver screen with a half-eaten apple on it? (OK, mine is blue. I have a crazy-cool case on mine. Silver is for boring people.)

And maybe it’s not the forbidden 7 sites or media centers. But it’s something. Because we’re trained to fill that time with something. And when a void presents itself, it’s human nature to fill it. Not usually with the best stuff but with the most convenient. I hate this, and I am a huge part of it.

My vow for this week is not to fill space with the closest thing. Swearing off three favorite sites is clearly not enough. No more. No more anything mindless that is just taking time from where it needs to be. Instead of opening the computer (or the phone–got my first smart phone Saturday. I am already sensing the danger) as a first resort, I will make an effort to find something else. Maybe even something involving other human beings.

It’s a thought. What do you find sucks your time away? How do you restrain it?

empty space: the final frontier

One week into eliminating seven forms of media from my life. I have gone one week without Facebook, TV, iPod, car radio, Pinterest, Jigzone, and Phileas. For those of you who are not in the know, Phileas is my GPS. Every appliance needs a name to feel loved.
Things I have noticed:
  • It’s very quiet in the car. Really quiet. I like it. Except when I don’t. To fill the empty space, I have, however, been known to become so engrossed in prayer (eyes open) or planning that I miss an exit. That doesn’t happen with just the radio on.
  • I have no idea what’s going on in my friends’ lives. I don’t like it. I want my Facebook back. It’s not a useless part of my day; it’s a valuable tool for keeping up and caring about others. I really, really miss your status updates! But, I probably spend too much time there.
  • I am having electronic jigsaw puzzle withdrawal symptoms. This includes sitting in my chair in the morning with my cup of tea staring at my computer thinking, What do I do? What is this object in front of me, and how on earth am I supposed to start my day? I mean really, how much can be expected of me at 7 am anyway? Funny, but now I’m starting my day with the Bible. What a concept. Not that I didn’t read it before, but now it’s first. I hope to maintain that habit.
  • It is very easy to fill space with other things that don’t need to be done. Why do we do this? So I’m not spending that first half hour of the day with Facebook and Jigzone. You know what? It takes very little time to realize I can rediscover StumbeUpon and Sporcle (a trivia quiz site) and waste equal amounts of time there. Maybe not waste, because we all need breaks, and there is some level of brain exercise involved. (Heaven knows those quizzes on 70’s TV shows must be warding off Alzeimer’s right?).

For this week, I’ve been trying to learn not to fill space. To just let it be. To let quiet be quiet, to let mornings sounds be birds instead of keystrokes, to allow for reconsideration of simple rhythms. Overall, yes, I like it.  

eliminating the buzz

May 1st. Do you know what that means? Besides that we should now have the temperatures we had in March? It means I can legally shop anywhere I like today. Except, I don’t really need to. Most of these months of having only seven options, I’ve almost counted the hours until I could eat something other than chicken and lettuce or wear something other than the same three shirts. But today? I have really, really enjoyed limiting the options and time spent driving everywhere for things I can do without. Maybe a plant nursery on the way home . . .

This month, however, does not promise to be so enjoyable or easy. Seven forms of media need to be cut out of my life for the month of May. The challenge in this is that I don’t use that much media. Oh, I am glued to my computer for a lot of the day, make no mistake. But not much else. So is it cheating if I give up TV, which I almost never turn on? If it is, call me a cheater, because that’s in there. Seven is a lot to come up with, so give a girl a break.

Will we all spend more time together this month? Will our semi-unplugged family look up from our computers and say, “Wow, when did you go blonde?” I can only hope. That’s the point anyway, to take those things that get in between people out of the way and see what happens.

Seven forms of media I’m taking a break from in May:

  • Facebook. You knew that had to be there. I’ll still be around for professional communication, but I will not be scrolling down my wall (or whatever they are calling it now) to see what you all are up to. No matter how much I am tempted. And the world will have to do without my sparkling wit in daily status updates. Who am I kidding? I update statuses like an anaconda eats–not at all for a week and then six times in one day. 
  • Pinterest. Sadly, I will have no idea what the newest recipes and garden decor are for May. Sniff. I can hear my family crying now. They were actually eating some good stuff since I discovered pinterest food boards.
  • Online jigsaw puzzles. There, now you know my computer addiction. I have never seen the appeal in Farmville or Angry Birds or any of the other 101 games you’ve all asked me to play. I am sorry. But I spend way too much time doing puzzles in the morning when I should be working. So, no more. That’s going to hurt.
  • TV. That’s not going to hurt. It would if the Olympics were on yet, but otherwise, I don’t really care.
  • The car radio. Silence in my car. Wow. That might be so totally foreign I won’t know what to do. I am a music person, so I won’t like this either. But at least I will no longer have to switch stations when female artists with two first names and inane lyrics come on. There is that.
  • My iPod. Ouch. Yes, I sometimes use it for music while I’m walking, but the truth? I usually listen to a lecture from The Tolkien Professor. Call me a geek. It’s better than when you called me a cheater. But I so love them.
  • I can’t think of a seventh one! I really can’t! Can you help me? Offer suggestions–I’m open. Can’t give up magazines, because one of my chores for May is to clean out our vastly overflowing magazine bin. And I really, really don’t want to give up texting. Can I pretend I ever actually used my Twitter account and then give it up? What else? Help!!