Friday, October 21, 2011

From Empty to Joyful in Thirty Minutes

So late this afternoon, I was driving home feeling a little bit empty and sad: daughter was off to a BBQ with friends and then the hometown football game, and doctor / bishop / handsome husband would soon be home from work to gather up his gear and set off for an overnighter with the Venture Scouts. I was going to be home alone with not much on my agenda: I had chosen what I thought was "the best" from a bunch of less-than-interesting movies at the local RedBox, and had brought a can of pumpkin in from the food storage with which to make a couple of loaves of pumpkin bread. Big thrill. Humph, and humph again.

Now it's nearly four hours later, and guess what? I've had the most wonderful evening by myself! And there's still a little more time before I pick up an SUV full of soaked-from-the-rain, excited teenagers ... so here I am, with you, to share what I learned tonight. Here's how I went "from empty to joyful" in thirty minutes flat.

1. Come home to quiet house, greeted by faithful Doodle, look around and see a bit of a mess. This I know about myself: I am not happy in a bit of a mess. I have two options: schlunk down into the mess and stay there for the evening, or take a few minutes to tidy up. Hey, I'm worth it!! Ah, Choice #1, taken by the horns and conquered. Tidiness it is.

2. Turn on all my pretty lamps as dusk closes in, and open the sliding door: cozy light inside, soft rain falling outside, fresh air creeps invigoratingly into my downstairs.

3. Light my incredibly yummy Beanpod (apple cider) soy candle. Instant Fall-in-a-Jar. Feeling better already.

4. Push "play" on my kitchen Bose: Jim Brickman's "Beautiful World" CD fills the room. Song 1 is "Simple Gifts", which always makes me feel at-one with the Shakers and all that is autumnal. Hum along, then sing along heartily: "'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free, 'tis the gift to come down to where we ought to be. And when we find ourselves in the place just riiiiiight ... 'twill be in the valley of love and delight."

5. Give the Doodle an unsolicited tummy rub. Kiss the top of his brown nose. Unless you're a dog lover, you WILL NOT get this. That's okay.

6. Start making a single serving of homemade hot chocolate on the stove. (2 T. cocoa, 2 T. sugar, dash of salt, 1 cup milk. Heat 'til steaming, and add 1/4 t. vanilla) Turn burner off when the call comes to be at the Crossroads for my daughter: grab the car keys, run to shuttle two cute 13 year-olds from making cookies at Kylie's to the BBQ at Mia's. Home again.

7. Finish hot chocolate, pour into my favorite striped mug, and spray a huge puff of whipped cream on top. Because I can.

8. A friend who never fails to inspire me phones. We talk for 16:38 minutes, and she tells me about her extraordinary experiences from last night. I feel as excited for her as if it happened to me. How I love having noble, Christlike women as dear friends.

9. Make a nest in my reading spot in our living room / library: soft blanket, new book, slippers, good reading light, move the candle in close ... start Ron Clark's The End of Molasses Classes -- 101 Extraordinary Solutions for Parents and Teachers. Oh my goodness. Amazing from page 1. If you are a parent, or a teacher in any sense, or a lover of young people (or all three), you will LOVE this book. Worthy of a blog post all its own. I have Brooke to thank for turning me on to this amazing educator who thinks out-of-the-box and accomplishes miracles with youth.

10. Handsome husband is home! Spring from my cozy spot to be at his Crossroads. Perch on the arm of the sofa in his office while he packs his stuff for the overnighter. After a grueling week of doctor and Church responsibilities, he is lighthearted and happy! This is a man who loves to "throw his pack together", grab a sleeping bag, change from work clothes to play clothes, and go make a difference with a bunch of young men. We catch up on the news of the day: an unexpected, sweet phone call from our daughter's History teacher, his report on this week's surgical procedures, update on phone messages from ward members ... all the while either he or I is/am running up and down the stairs, gathering his skull cap or his North Face gloves or his thick socks. Husband has transformed from doctor to outdoorsman, and after a quick smooch and a big smile, he's off to meet up with the priests' quorum. Feeling SO GOOD that I took the time to connect with him before he left. Love this man.

11. Read another chapter in Ron Clark's amazing book. Marking favorite words and phrases and whole paragraphs.

12. Start dinner for myself: one perfect, beautiful tenderloin steak slowly pan-fried in a tad of olive oil and herbs (then sliced thinly), a cup of fresh, steamed broccoli with lemon juice, and a small goblet of fresh-pressed apple cider.

13. Grab my inspiration notebook because suddenly the heavens have parted and phrases of illumination are coming fast and furious. Jot as fast as my hand can move. I have been praying lately about what my life needs to be about right now, where my time needs to be spent. I am brought back to C.S. Lewis' analogy of A LIFE as compared to either a cottage or a palace, and suddenly see exactly how that applies to me. My direction for this next phase of life comes in little snippets of light and whispered promptings. I am writing. I am getting it. I am joyful. I know what my next move must be, and it is exciting.

14. Eat dinner slowly, taking breaks to continue writing in my journal. Feel grateful that I took the time to be quiet tonight, rather than glueing myself to the TV. The Spirit needed to be able to get through. Feel the need to blog RIGHT NOW, after weeks of feeling less-than-inspired and so un-bloggy.

15. Grab my little camera, take an awkward photo of my reading spot (so you can have a visual image as you read), log onto blogspot, and type, type, type. The words pour out, and thirty minutes later, here I am typing this period. That one there.

One lesson from tonight: the emptiness and the poor-me feelings high-tailed themselves out of here the moment I made the CHOICE to set my stage to have a wonderful evening. Another lesson, re-learned: in order to hear the still, small voice of the Spirit, we need to make time to be quiet.

Well, my sweet followers, I have about thirty minutes 'til I'm on carpool duty again. Start that dumb movie? Nope. I have just enough time to get a couple loaves of pumpkin bread in the oven, then I get to hang out with the world's coolest teenager. Be back soon...


  1. I'm convinced that redbox might be the single greatest block to meaningful quiet time alone. :)
    Thanks for helping me remember how needed that time is.
    SO glad you're loving Ron Clark!!

  2. You are so cool! I giggled multiple times because of how alike we are. How ridiculously alike we are. Way to tidy up and light a candle and read a good book and bake and smile and... Well everything you talked about sounded wonderful.

    Thanks for writing this! And your picture is SO not dorky. I think it's your best one yet. Really!

  3. I am SO glad I found your blog! You're an amazing woman and am inspired by your words (and deeds...)

  4. Macy, thank you for that. A good reminder that we can choose to be happy. ~Emery