That thing you’ve been meaning to do….

LYI2FLC9GNWe all have something we’ve been meaning to do or take care of. Maybe it’s folding the laundry and then actually putting it in the drawers. Maybe it’s clicking “Unsubscribe” on the daily junk email or advertisement you keep deleting and it keeps coming. Maybe it’s writing your son’s thank you notes for his birthday that was 3 months ago (not speaking from experience here at all…sorry everyone).

Perhaps the thing you’ve been meaning to do is less tangible. Maybe it’s calling a friend you haven’t spoke with in a while. Maybe it’s finding some space in your day for quiet stillness. Maybe it’s a lifestyle change – food, exercise, schedule, etc.

0903152048Something I’ve noticed about putting things off, tangible or not, is that the longer I wait, the larger the task becomes. It’s easy to see with the tangible things. For example, the laundry. The longer I leave the basket of clean but not folded or organized clothes out, the harder it becomes to put away. Everyone starts shifting through the clothes, finding what they need and leaving the pile behind them. After a few days, it almost makes sense, in some twisted logic kind of way, to just leave it. The basket is half empty and laundry day is coming up again soon anyway. Just let it ride and I can try again next time.

For some things, it becomes embarrassing. Take the example of the thank you notes that in no way are one of the key points of inspiration for this blog post. The longer we waited to write them, the more embarrassing it got in my head. But, instead of buckling down and just writing the darn things, I would conveniently find something else that needed to be done since I didn’t want to own up to the fact that the cards would be so late.

Procrastinating on more intangible things is just as problematic. I think we all probably have a friend that we wish we kept in better touch with. I know I do. Quite a few in fact. We have so many means of communication at our disposal – email, Facebook, texting, a phone call.  But, at least for me, I find it hard to connect with someone when we’ve been out of touch for a period of time. Maybe this is a side-effect of our ability to have constant communication and connection. Since I don’t know everything that has happened to them over the past few months and they don’t know what has happened to me, how can we possibly catch up all that time? It becomes a barrier to reaching out at all, which means I’m missing out on some special relationships because of my own hang-ups and tendency to over-think everything.

While I’ve been thinking about things I’ve been meaning to do, coincidentally while avoiding doing these exact things (a laundry basket is within eyesight, I promise to fold it tonight….or tomorrow), I stumbled across the thought that maybe this is one reason why it hard for people to start to pray after avoiding it. Think about the reasons why we might not strike up a conversation with someone who we haven’t talked with in a while. You don’t know where they are in life anymore. You don’t know what trials they have faced. What if you bring up something awkward or accidentally stir a pot you didn’t realize you were stirring? What they do the same for you? They don’t know what’s been happening with you. I imagine that some of these thoughts might be played out in our minds when we think about our conversations, or lack of them, with God.

The thing that we have probably forgotten in all our wonderings is that unlike our friend who hasn’t been walking our journey with us, God has. We might not have been talking to him, but He has been talking to us. While we were neglecting to include Him in our daily routines, He has been ever-present. So the thought that God may not know what we’ve been going through is simply not true. No matter what we’ve encountered and regardless of how long it’s been, God wants to renew His relationship with us.

Thankfully, God isn’t like the laundry basket, slowly being emptied only to be refilled with more dirty laundry. God is always ready for us, always willing to be with us and always, even in this moment, actively pursuing us. When coming to God in prayer, especially after a period of silence, don’t get hung up on what you haven’t been saying. Just start talking.

Pray as you can, not as you can’t.

God answers every prayer… and sometimes He says “No” or “Wait”.

If you experience dryness in prayer or a time when you come to Mass and feel like you didn’t get anything out of it, then that’s a good day… That’s a day where you get to choose to love God for His sake and not for what He can do for you.
Father Mike Schmitz

Cleaning Timing

A few weeks ago, Ben was coming home from a trip. It was a short one, thank goodness, but I still felt like the house could use a bit of a pick-me-up. It was a Saturday morning and he wasn’t due home until around dinner time. Perfect. The kids usually get to watch a little television on Saturday mornings so that was the perfect time to clean the bathrooms.

Obviously not my bathroom, much too sparkly. No finger prints from inquisitive children
Obviously not my bathroom, much too sparkly. No finger prints from inquisitive children

Cleaning the bathrooms is always my most dreaded part of the day, even though it doesn’t take that long. Surprisingly enough, it is also the task I derive the most satisfaction from accomplishing. Even though this is the case, the likelihood of me actually undertaking the chore past 11am is extremely slim.

Did I get the bathrooms cleaned during the 30 minute window of cartoons? No, of course not (probably wouldn’t  be writing a blog post about it if I did). Did I get them cleaned before the self-imposed, completely arbitrary and utterly ridiculous deadline of 11am? Again, no.

There I was at 2:30pm, standing in the kitchen. John and Rosie were both napping (the heavens had aligned as never before, just kidding, but it is becoming a rarer occasion as John gets older). Clare was happily amusing herself with a sock, a baby doll and a plastic hammer. A prudent and industrious person would be found cleaning the bathrooms as was her intent all day long. But alas, as the opening sentence to this paragraph stated, I was in the kitchen. Not only was I not in the kitchen, I was contemplating something rather absurd. I was standing there, wondering what to do, knowing I should be cleaning the bathroom, but instead started crafting this blog post in my head about how easy it is to make obscure and unnecessary rules to help us avoid tasks that need to get done and all the ways we procrastinate. I was procrastinating with a blog post about procrastinating!

At a certain point I felt quite foolish and went to clean a bathroom, inwardly laughing at myself and feeling rather ashamed at my lack of motivation and discipline. I only got one bathroom done, you can only expect a 7 month old to amuse her self for a completely unknowable period of time.

Even though I only got one of two bathrooms cleaned, it still felt good that 1. I actually pulled myself out of my silly rules and undisciplined self and 2. I accomplished the task.

It is a funny thing, we humans do. We create rules, structures, disciplines and un-disciplines with which we try to run our lives.  Any way that we can control our situations, experiences and tasks provides us with a sense of stability and routine. It shelters certain areas of our lives from other parts, differentiates one part from the other. My “rule” (which upon reflection and realization of it’s existence, I should probably be rid of) not to clean after 11am is one way to protect my evenings after the kids go to bed but most especially, my precious few minutes alone during nap time. There are healthier ways to do this, like actually cleaning when I mean to instead of procrastinating. Novel!

Some people aren’t procrastinators, God bless them. I don’t understand them but I do wish I could be more like them and I try to be. It’s hard work. I’m so thankful that the apostles were not procrastinators. Imagine if Peter was. Jesus calls Peter to leave his fishing nets and follow him, immediately. Not in an hour, not tomorrow, not after you’ve finished your task. When I read the story (see Matthew 4:18-22, Matthew tells us that Jesus was walking along the sea and called out to Peter and his brother, Andrew. Matthew never says that Jesus stops walking. Close your eyes and picture it (after you finish reading I suppose): Jesus is walking along and he calls out to follow him, but he doesn’t stop to wait to see if you do or not. He just keeps walking at the same steady pace. What would you do? Would you wait, procrastinate, or even turn away? Or would you put down what you were doing and join in step behind Jesus.

I love this picture because you can really feel the movement of Jesus walking past.
I love this picture because you can really feel the movement of Jesus walking past.

Think about Mary. When the angel Gabriel came to Mary, he did not ask her to be the mother of Jesus in a few years, or when she and Joseph were officially married, or even to think on it for a few days. No, Mary made her decision in that very moment, demonstrating her obedience and her faithfulness to God and His will. Mary was not a procrastinator.

It’s tough, it’s so tough. Every day it’s a choice. Often, it’s a choice we have to make again and again every day. We usually know the right choice to make, we just don’t want to make it or don’t want to make it in that moment. I’ll volunteer later, I’ll commit to a parish when I’m older, I’ll join a bible study next year, continue to fill in the blanks. If you feel Jesus is calling you to something, he probably isn’t calling you to procrastinate about it.

And don’t worry, I’m not writing this while I procrastinate about cleaning the bathrooms….but I haven’t emptied the dishwasher yet….