Just don’t plan on doing anything tomorrow

Photo courtesy of Lynn Kelly Author via WANA Commons

The first week of our sixth year with Alpha Omega Christian Academy has just about come and gone. It’s been a full one, with numerous challenges and rewards, but as a day or two off before the next week draws near, it seems like a good time to revisit this post from July 3, 2012.

Let’s have another look, shall we?

JUST DON’T PLAN ON DOING ANYTHING TOMORROW

With tomorrow being a national holiday, that surely sounds tempting: just a day to do whatever comes to mind, or nothing in particular.  I feel having a day with a plan like that once in a while is beneficial.

There’s another way of looking at whether or not we’re planning on doing anything tomorrow:  it’s the “I’m going to get to that…Tomorrow!” list. At this point in my life, I’ve seen several things die of old age on my “Tomorrow!”  list.  But a few crumbling remnants did make it over to “Oh, why not go ahead and try?”, and those that did made lasting impressions.

Like the time I decided for real that credit cards were crazy, and that I was about to be.  Mind you, that was no heroic thing.  It came after I totaled my less-than-one-year-old car, and began to look at my budget, spending plan, frantically scrawled figures, to see what I could afford.  Answer:  “NOTHING”.  Very disappointing.  A single mom, I’d been digging a hole deeper and deeper in credit card debt, thinking I’d get straight “Tomorrow!” I really couldn’t afford much of anything with real money.

I was directed toward the solid financial teaching/debt-lambasting of Dave Ramsey, who had gone bankrupt before learning financial principles.  Of all the good programs on getting out of debt, his communicated to desperate, debt-strapped people (already feeling like idiots), “You’re no dumber than I was, just don’t stay that way!”  The courage to try was imparted. So, with much prayer, and a plan for trimming a few non-essentials from our new budget, the cards were cut up, and I humbly went shopping for something closer to my reality-range. The progress hasn’t been perfect, but having greater balance has been golden. As long as that decision to stop and turn around was on the “Tomorrow!” list, though, I got no benefit from it — only mounting anxiety.

Another thing off the “Tomorrow!” list, is what I’m doing now:  Writing.  In my social work career, the opportunities to compose and collaborate on documents seemed among the most rewarding tasks I had. I grew to see it as more than an interesting sideline and more of a worthy pursuit.  How did I discover that?  By starting.

So you may be processing that last idea: “You found out by starting, and you started by finding out?  Huh?”  Let me explain.  I read someone’s blog I wanted to comment on, and to do so, had to sign up for the blog-hosting site (wordpress.com). When I did, I realized that writing a blog was in my power to do (and was free). That was exciting — and scary.  But the overriding sense was that I felt I had something to say.

The chance to read others’ blogs through Word Press showed me there were writers out there actually encouraging the writing of people they’d never met.  Who knew? Kristen Lamb‘s blog was of this sort, and by looking at the blogs of others who’d commented on her posts, I found several more with solid advice, and the ability to help growing writers learn.  They actually seemed to care whether I wrote that book that’s been on my “Tomorrow!” list so long.

So, my point? One of my favorite sayings is: “It’s easier to guide a vehicle in motion.” Duh, of course it is.  Yet how often have we looked at things we’ve dreamed of and thought, “I just don’t know if I could.  Maybe I’ll look into it…Tomorrow!” The way to know if it’s time to begin is: to begin — just take steps.  Baby steps are great.  With so much of the world’s knowledge at your fingertips (through internet on computer and smartphones, or even your good old neighborhood library), you have the ability to learn about your interest freely. Just begin to inquire: try, and see what can happen.

One more story.  When I retired a year ago, after 27 years as a social worker, I had some misgivings of “What next?”. I prayerfully asked that, and by the time retirement was official, I was deeply immersed in opening our church’s Christian School — our pastor’s vision, but an area I’d felt a connection to many years before.  Learning as we went, all involved were all amazed at the resources and support we found.

Looking back on this first year reminds me of this phrase from God’s word: “…the Lord working with them…” (Mark 16:20). It describes men who didn’t sit back and wonder if they should start, but began, and knew they weren’t working alone. The Lord worked with these apostles who were following his command to preach the gospel (detailed in the book of Acts), and he confirmed their word “with signs following”.

Obviously there are seasons for things in our lives, but when there’s a tug to pursue a passion, even if your ability seems fragile, the doing something — moving it from the “Tomorrow!” list — is the only way to know what can happen. So, just don’t plan on doing anything “Tomorrow!”  See what you can start “Today!”

4 minutes that changed the world

15. True ____ False ____  An inch is a large unit of measure.

The answer’s obvious, isn’t it?

This was an actual question on a Physical Science test during my freshman year in college — possibly a final exam, since I remember so well my agitated state of mind upon reading it. After all, it cost me what could have been a perfect score, and only my second “B” at the school (the first was in Volleyball, but that’s enough said about that).

The class seemed downright hokey to me after the more rigorous courses I’d had up to that point.  I didn’t like the instructor. He taught at a level of challenge designed to keep football players playing.

With such a positive mindset, the exam question of whether or not an inch was a large unit of measure set my brain to screaming, “COMPARED TO WHAT???!!!  MILES OR MICRONS???!!!”  Needless to say, with a fifty percent chance of getting that one right, I didn’t (I can’t remember which I chose, but probably checked “True”, just to make my point. Great choice).

It’s all about perspective

Time and distance are two quantities that can be measured accurately, but are experienced according to our perspective.  Does Christmas take a long time to get here each year? Depends on whether you’re paying the bills or riding the new tricycle.  How much farther is it to Grandma’s house? Could be one more tank of gas or three thousand license plates.

When it comes to time, some things come down to simply what we’re used to, and what we’ve conditioned ourselves (or have been conditioned by someone else, for any conspiracy theorists out there) to accept.

I’ve recently returned to some of my roots, wondering why I ever left. I’ve been enriched by the return, and raked myself over the coals for having bought into the lure away. I’m amazed at my staying so long that I really can’t remember when I first drifted from what was best to go for what was simply good. In what area was this Eureka! moment?

Oatmeal.  Oh, yeah.  It was the big one. I’d heard all the blather about the “original rolled oats” being healthier than the more trendy oatmeal varieties I always bought, but I had resisted buying the original until I’d visited a relative’s home where the original style was the only option. Forced to delve into this texture and taste or avoid eating oatmeal altogether, I gave in and tried it.  It was good. Really good. The texture was more hearty, and the taste more real. I was hooked.

Why should you care about my oatmeal?

Being a writer, I naturally was unable to withstand the urge to think more largely about the phenomenon of really good oatmeal. If it’s more heart-healthy and more digestion-healthy and just down-right better all around, why was it virtually abandoned by society to the degree that health professionals now have to counsel people to select it as opposed to what they’re used to?

Why aren’t we already eating that kind? Is it more expensive? My recent run to the grocery store revealed that it is approximately, if not exactly, the same price, at least where I shop. So what is the problem?

I’ve identified it. Are you ready?

It’s the FOUR MINUTES.

Got it?

No?

Look at the labels. It takes an incredible five whole minutes to prepare the old-fashioned, original kind of oatmeal. How can even health professionals expect people to put that kind of time into readying themselves and their families for the day? I don’t think mothers should be expected to abandon the daily routine that stabilizes their lives, which obviously turns on the ability to only spare ONE MINUTE for cooking oatmeal.

OK. I confess to hyperbole. But in reality, in my writer brain, there’s a connection. We are willing to abandon the good for the quick. Our increasingly attention-shortened society glosses over quality for convenience, without really thinking of what we’re choosing.

There are some things that don’t work as well when done in a hurry

Family relationships.  Listening takes time. Trying to really listen on a cell phone while driving is not only less than safe, it’s less than effective.  Build time into your life to sit down eyeball to eyeball with your mother, grandmother, teenager or child of any age. The pay-off is worth it.
Education.   Our Christian school opted for a print-based curriculum after using a couple of online varieties that seemed to offer a faster-paced way to get things done. Good old pencil, paper, reading, memorizing, and practicing have proven invaluable methods, encouraging the students to interact with human beings before they interact with technology (they get plenty of that both at school and elsewhere!). It takes time, but it works.
 A walk with God. No rushing that one.  A quick blessing over your food, if you take time for that, is no substitute for separating yourself from your to-do list to just seek God, preferably early in the day, with time spent in prayer and reading his word. Looking into the word of God to find the path he gave to begin to know him, and then to respond to what the word says, will be time well invested. Maintaining that walk with him is a beautiful thing, but it takes….time.

So, here’s your question.

____True ____ False: Four minutes can change your world.

The answer? Probably not so much by itself (unless you live a lot longer on real oatmeal). String a few sets together, and apply them to things that matter and you’re getting somewhere.

So what about you? What  time investments are paying off for you? Anywhere you’ve cut corners and found it cost you in the end?  I’d love to hear from you.

Once I Heard the Sweet Song, my debut novel presently in the self-editing phase,  is the story of a family a few decades ago, when all oatmeal was real and took five whole minutes to cook. Do you remember those days?