Reflectionary

Reflect, Rework, Renew

I’ve never been a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions, since most of them have sounded punitive to me. For the past two years, though, my wife and I have undertaken a modified version of Gretchen Rubin’s practice of yearly commitments. Kathryn first did it in 2019 – a list of 19 things she wanted to do that year. We made our lists (10 individual items and 10 shared items) with good humor and optimism in early 2020, based in intentions like getting out together to the movies more, and developing deeper friendships by inviting people over to dinner. And then COVID-19 hit, and we became our own meme of “how I caused the pandemic.”

As I reflect on my 21 for 2021 list in this last week of the year, I have to confess that I feel disappointed by the things I tried and failed. I planned to make my own sourdough starter, but I failed on multiple attempts. I laid out an ambitious reading list of 21 books I already owned; I read (or started) about half of them. 

(Books I’m still hoping to finish circled. But seriously, it’s the 30th.)

And read 21 minutes a day? I guess I did, if you count newspaper articles on my iPad, but I really had books in mind. I had the idea of knitting a sweater for Kathryn, but due to pandemic restrictions on in-person shopping and a snafu with the yarn dyer, ended up spending too many dollars on the wrong color of yarn. 

As I grumbled to myself about all these things, I took a look at an Instagram post from the originator of the idea and learned that Gretchen Rubin herself did not get to all the things on her list. And as I look back over the year as a whole, I see that I read a lot of books I didn’t even know about when I made a list 12 months ago, and I baked many new things even without a sourdough success. 

Who did I think my list was for, anyway?

At the kitchen table the other day, Kathryn suggested we decide whether some things could be rolled over; the rest can be a page that we tear out of the metaphorical book and move on, she said. It’s good advice, and it grows out of the experience we have all shared over the past 22 months, adjusting to unexpected reality over and over again, reworking plans and then reworking them again.

What really helps our household keep it together are the habits we have developed and the structures we have put in place and maintained. As Rubin writes,

“Habits are the invisible architecture of everyday life. If we have habits that are good for us, we’re far more likely to be happier; if we have habits that are bad for us, we’ll find it tougher to be happy.” 

Doing a little knitting daily, writing down how I’m feeling so I’ll know, eating a breakfast that gives me the right kind of fuel, creating space for a daily devotional time with Kathryn, staying on track with work and personal tasks in my modified bullet journal, devising a meal plan for the week (including who is going to cook and when to get takeout), baking something from scratch on Saturdays — these are all habits that make me a better person, a better partner and parent, and a better coach. They are life-altering in the most ordinary ways. I renew my commitment to these, and even when I fail, I will keep coming back to them.

What’s working for you? How will you renew your commitments in 2022?


P.S. A friend sent me some dried sourdough starter, and I’m going to give it another try.

Reflectionary, UCC Daily Devotional

A Place for the Lord

“I won’t enter my house, won’t get into my bed. I won’t let my eyes close, won’t let my eyelids sleep, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the strong one of Jacob.” – Psalm 132:3-5 (Common English Bible)

Psalm 132 remembers David and his hope to build a temple. His journey to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem showed him both its awe-inspiring energy and the blessing of its presence. The ark represented the presence of the Lord, and David pictured a physical structure to honor and protect it. We read in the psalm the strength of his desire. He would not go home, or let himself rest, he said, until he could make that place.

We may tend to think of that “place for the Lord” as the church, a building set aside for particular activities of worship, and education, and perhaps care for the community. But in this chaotic and complicated pandemic season, when social distancing meant church was on a screen for many of us, we may have had to find some other dwelling place for God. Was it a corner of our minds? A room in our hearts? Did we find it in the work of our hands, or a fragment of song on our lips? Or did we search and remain unsatisfied?

David found himself distanced from his dream. To build the temple was not his work to do. He would pass the plans down to his son, Solomon. As we near the end of two years disrupted by the pandemic, we may identify with David’s longing. When will we connect with God? And how? And where?

Prayer

Holy One, send word of where you are that we might find you. Amen.


Written for the United Church of Christ Daily Devotional.

Reflectionary, UCC Daily Devotional

The Doorway

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. – John 13:1 (NRSV)

Jesus gathered the disciples for a dinner we have come to call the Last Supper, a story we tell every time we gather for Communion. We ritualize the different events in John’s Gospel on Maundy Thursday with the washing of feet (or hands for the more cautious among us). In one version Jesus serves his followers, and in the other he serves himself to us as the bread of life and the cup of blessing.

With my Cousin Jack

The way we tell those stories brings us to a threshold between what was and is to come, like a doorway between memory and possibility that is right now and yet not. We tell our own stories like that. I remember my father at an airport handing me a crisp $100 bill to take my son out to lunch. I remember his cousin, years later, making sure to sit with me at a family wedding to put me at ease. I remember eating a holiday meal with my godmother after she moved into a nursing home, an effort that cost her more than I knew. Every time I tell their stories we stand in the doorway together.

The Gospels tell us Jesus ate meals with his disciples again after the Resurrection, which makes it odd to call that Supper “Last.” It gives me hope for meals to be eaten somewhere beyond the doorway, farther than I can see now, with nothing of past love lost.

Prayer

Gracious God, we thank you for love that lasts until the end and beyond. Amen.


Written for the United Church of Christ Daily Devotional.