Don’t should on yourself. 

I should take my Christmas lights down. I mean, for crying out loud, Valentine’s Day is on Tuesday. Yet there they are – twinkling proudly in front of the whole neighborhood. And, if I am going to be brutally honest in this confession, I should probably also admit to the multiple strands of colored lights that are strung along my back deck. From Christmas twentyfifteen. That haven’t been plugged in since. Strung merrily on the deck that should also be pressure washed and repainted. I should feel guilty about this. I should put this near the top of a honey do list. But…. meh. 

I have a feeling that most of us have a long list of shoulds that confront us from the moment we pull our heads off of the pillow each morning. I should have gotten up an hour earlier to exercise. I should make the bed. I should drink less caffeine. I should take a shower. I should buy stock in dry shampoo. I should have a wholesome family moment including scripture reading and some sort of commissioning prayer each morning with my kids over a hot cooked breakfast. I should not be putting on mascara while driving my children to daycare. I should listen to that voicemail blinking on the work phone. 

All those shoulds and it’s not even 9 AM.

And even more insidious than those are all the shiny happy social media shoulds. I should take my kids to the children’s museum. I should read more. I should make my own soap. I should have friends to be drinking wine with on a Tuesday night. I should go on vacation to Mexico and take pictures of my polished toenails in a hammock. I should learn to knit. I should join the PTA or PETA or the PLC. I should be doing the 21 day fix or eating paleo or crossfitting. (Confession- I am not entirely sure what any of the last three things are). 

We spend so much of our lives shoulding all over ourselves. And, my friends, should is a dirty word. Should is a sibling to shame. Kin to guilt and insecurity and depression. When has a should in your life ever brought you a feeling of freedom? Ever come with a sense of joy? Shoulds never do. They are heavy and muddy brown. A burden, not a gift. 

And this too – most shoulds are not actual shoulds. They are not necessary to sustain life – I would posit that one could live a full happy life without bowing to many shoulds at all. 

In fact, here is a thought experiment: what if you turned all of your shoulds into coulds? Instead of I should read that book: I could read that book. All of a sudden an obligation has turned into an invitation. One that you were free to either except or decline. You could learn how to can vegetables, or you could not. By changing one tiny letter, you sweep the desk clean from stacks of imaginary burdens, and create room for possibility. 

If should is connected to shame, could is akin to whimsy. To opportunity and, dare I say it, joy. Could invites the imagination to engage. It automatically puts you in a mindset where you can decide if this is something you actually want to do… something you actually have time for. Should forces its way in, while could simply knocks and waits. 

So. Next time you discover that you are shoulding all over yourself, stop. Ask your self if this is truly something you want to do. And even if you want to do it, ask yourself if it is something that you ever actually will accomplish. I will give you a hint – if you are anything like me, starting your own garden and/or learning to quilt automatically goes in the “I’m never going to do that” category. 

Let your should turn into what it actually was all along… A could. And see if that invitation sparks joy, or anxiety.

So yes, I should take down my Christmas lights. But darn it, I like them. So shine on you gorgeous twinkly stars. Life’s too short to should your pants. 

Fake Busy

You know what I am tired of hearing myself talk about?  How busy I am.  Yes.  I do a bunch of stuff.  But yes- I have the same 24 hours in a day that everyone else has.  And, just like everyone else, I get to choose how I spend it!  So why do I get stuck in this cycle of complaining about how little time I have like my own schedule is something that is happening TO me?

I chose this!

Half the things I find myself racing around to do are things that my husband calls ‘fake busy’… burning items on my to do list that I just made up out of my head that I need to get done.  Since when is buying a new pack of athletic socks an emergency?  It sure seemed couponthat way to me last Thursday!  Just because I have $10 loyalty rewards and a 40% coupon at AC Moore does not mean that I am required to go to that store today.  Whether or not I have painted my fireplace is actually not a life and death situation.  And yet, that’s how I live my life!  80% of the things I feel stressed about are things that I made up for myself to do.

How about you?

How often are your days filled with ‘fake busy’ items on your to do list?

How much time to you spend in front of the TV?  On social media? Disengaged with your life?

How many hidden pockets of time are being lost in your day?

I have a lot.  And as I am reflecting this Lenten season, I wonder what would happen if I invested that time more wisely?  If I lived my life intentionally, prioritizing people over things?  If I spent the hours entrusted to me engaging with my kids, calling an out of town friend, or just savoring the sweetness of my life, instead of rushing headlong into the next project I created for myself?

    Remind me that my days are numbered—
    how fleeting my life is.
 You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
    My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
    at best, each of us is but a breath.” Interlude
We are merely moving shadows,
   and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
-Psalm 39:4-6

We have a choice.  Even on the things we have to do.  Yes.  Humans need to eat, with shocking regularity.  But what if cooking a meal was an invitation into presence?  If we enjoy the scents, the smells, the colors of cooking our food, instead of rushing it onto plates?  What if time spent in the car was seen as an opportunity to pray blessings on the strangers we pass along the road?  Or to marvel at the beauty of a sunset, a tree branch, a backseat child’s laughter?

There is a difference between surviving and truly living.  We all have 24 hours.  How we spend them is an attitude of the mind.


The Mindset of Scarcity

It is written in our nature that we expect there to be enough to go around. Enough money, enough time, enough love, enough friends, enough… blessings.  It is our human experience to realize, that to our great chagrin, this is not always the case.  Moments when we crash into this reality are always unsettling.  They feel like the experience when you leave a moving walkway and once again step on solid ground.  Your body lurches forward with momentum, yet your feet stagger below you, unused to their new yet familiar burden.

These predicaments often get a lot of press.  Poverty is a national conversation.  Loneliness is so pervasive that it is something of a shared experience, even in it’s very alone-ness.  And yet, scarcity of time is something that is so common that it has in many ways become our mode of operation.  It is almost a point of pride to be so busy juggling obligations that you have no margin for error.  Yet, our life is such a precious gift, simply enduring our days does not seem to be what he asks of us.

O Lord, make me know my end
    and what is the measure of my days;
    let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
    and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah
Psalm 39:4-5

I have just come out of a busy time at work.  It has only been in the past few days that I felt like I have had the ability to stop and take a breath, to look up and see the world around me.  The past three months have held so many responsibilities, trips away from home, odd and extra time spent at the office.  It can be hard to feel as if you are so busy at a time of year when other people seem to have time to relax.  However, when I take a step back, I realize that although I had a lot going on, and although I did it all, I had the completely wrong mentality.

Stimeomewhere along the line, I allowed myself to slip into what I think of as the mindset of scarcity. At some point, I told myself that there wasn’t enough time to do what I needed to do.  And with that assertion, things began to snowball.  I had less capacity to hold things in my head.  I had less patience for myself, for my kids, for my husband.  I began to cut corners at home, dishes began to pile up on the counter.  I became impatient and resentful of people who asked things of me, or who failed to immediately deliver what I asked of them.  I lost touch with friends.  I started skipping social events.   In other words, i was a royal pain to be around.


Because I had told myself that there wasn’t enough of me to go around.  That my mental and emotional stores were depleted.  Which felt true.  But with that statement, I was also telling myself a lie about God.  That he didn’t care.  That he couldn’t renew me, guide me, or console me.  That I simply had to survive what was ahead, instead of daring to engage or thrive within these challenges.  I slammed the door in God’s face.  I stopped carving out time for prayer and reflection.  I did not allow God the space he needed to renew me.

When I slip into the mindset of scarcity, the first thing that happens is that I feel frazzled.  Then I feel overburdened, then tired, then resentful.  I start focusing on what I don’t have, instead of celebrating what I do have.  I begin desperately hoarding quiet moments, only to fill them with my unquiet thoughts and anxieties.  Does that sound familiar to you?

What if, when we meet times of trials, we look in hope for God’s provinence?  What if we expect Him to turn up, to order our days, to replenish our flagging spirits? Think of how you could view new challenges with this mindset- eager to see what God will do, even, dare I say, what God will do through you? 

The best I can say about these past few months is that I survived.  Even while I was in the midst of it, I had a nagging feeling that I was doing it wrong.  But this feeling simply mixed in with the rest of the gloomy negativity to continue to drag me down.  However, it is my prayer and my hope that the next time I walk though this valley of scarcity, I will look to my Provider for strength, for hope, and for guidance!

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
Romans 5:1-5